The phone rang a week ago Thursday while I was watching an old $25,000 Pyramid game show hosted by the late Dick Clark and waiting to leave for my 10 a.m. Silver Sneakers class at the Body Workz.

On the other end of the line was Debbie Thomas, mother of NFL player Earl Thomas III.

Debbie said that she just received a text message from her son Earl who wrote that he wanted wife Susan and I to watch him play in his football game in Washington on the next Sunday.

I told her that Susan would call her in the early afternoon as soon as she got home from school.

After I hung up, I scratched my head and remembered that the Seattle Seahawks had an important game with the first-place Arizona Cardinals Nov. 23 and not the Washington Redskins.

I sounded real excited when Susan came home and she wasn’t following what I was telling her very well.

So when she returned the phone call, she was floored when Debbie told her that Earl wanted us to watch him play football against Arizona and was sending us two tickets to the game, two round-trip airline tickets to Seattle and two nights stay at the Seattle Hilton. Now both of us were very excited!!!

We spent last Friday night at a hotel near George Bush Airport in Houston, hoping to get to see the West Orange-Stark playoff game against Giddings at nearby Turner Stadium. That part of the scenario didn’t come to pass.

When we boarded the United Airlines 737 jet airbus, the plane had 200 passengers and crew and was completely full. 

Several members of Earl’s family were on the flight including uncles and aunts George and Betty Franks, Anthony and Quianna Thomas and their three children, his grandmother Dora Thomas, younger brother Seth, and his parents Earl, Jr. and Debbie Thomas.

His parents and Seth flew into Seattle a day earlier to be with him when he launched his Earl Thomas III Educational Foundation with a fund-raiser that netted $230,000–$50,000 of which was Earl’s personal contribution.

When we arrived in Seattle shortly after noon on Saturday, Earl had arranged to have two Cadillac Escalades meet us at the airport and bring us to the Hilton.

Game Day Sunday in Seattle lasted the entire day but began with a steady rain coming down. A stretch limousine picked us up at the hotel three hours before kickoff and drove us right down to the underground parking lot for the Seattle players.

As we were unloading, a gorgeous black Rolls Royce needed to get by. It was Earl, who was in a hurry, but had enough time to greet us and have a picture taken.

Our group had a special invitation to a private pre-game party under Century Link Stadium that was almost like a carnival, with various games, a band, cold drinks and snacks.

By game time, the rain had stopped and the sky was cloudless as we climbed up to our seats on the third level of the huge stadium. The game was billed as being between the NFL’s two best defenses and the 9-3 halftime score verified it.

Just as the Seahawks were driving for the game’s only touchdown, I got whacked on the back of my head. A young lady about three rows up from us came flying down after being knocked over by an un-sober man who had fallen out of the stands into her.

Somehow my left arm helped break her fall as she landed in the row in front of us. Dazed and scared to death, she slowly got up and thankfully was all right. The fellow who started the mishap suffered a gashed chin and was escorted downstairs.

The Seahawks scored to increase their lead to 16-3 late in the third period. But Arizona took the ensuing kickoff and was driving when Earl made a crucial stop on a third-down pass completion, forcing the Cardinals to punt.

That play, in my opinion, swung the momentum Seattle’s way for good as they went on to beat the NFL’s winningest team 19-3 to the delight of the unbelievably loud crowd. The victory put the Seahawks back in the playoff hunt, tying them with the Dallas Cowboys for the two NFC wild card spots if the season ended today.

Our Orange entourage had passes to greet the players as they were coming out of the locker room. As he always did at West Orange-Stark and Texas, Earl was the very last player to come out of the dressing room.

He was interviewed after the game by the Seattle Times and was quoted in Monday’s edition as saying, “For the first time this year, I think we played for pure reasons, with no strings attached.” The Seahawks also were as close to a full defensive squad as they’ve had since the opener against Green Bay.

The limo then brought us to Earl’s home in the upscale suburb of Bellevue where we were treated to a barbecued beef meal with all the trimmings. 

I went downstairs to his “Man Cave” which had a monstrous television with theater-like comfortable couches with drink-holders and watched the second half of the Dallas-New York Giants game. The walls were adorned with his various game jerseys and other football memorabilia.

After the party we were driven back to the hotel by Earl’s 6-5, 300-pound body guard who was behind the wheel of a new black Mercedes-Benz.

We returned to Houston on another United 737 that also was completely full. While driving back to Orange I asked Susan, “What did I do to deserve such a great, all-expenses paid trip like that?” 

She replied without hesitation, “You hung onto my coattails,”

JUST BETWEEN US…Due to our extremely late arrival back to Orange Monday night, we were unable to write our usual Kaz’s Fearless Forecast this week. But we are picking the West Orange-Stark Mustangs to edge past LaMarque 20-13 Friday at Baytown and the Seattle Seahawks to upset San Francisco 17-13 on Thanksgiving night after eating all the turkey earlier in the day.



Photo: A happy Earl Thomas is greeted by Susan Kazmar (left) and Joe Kazmar coming out of the locker room at Century Link Stadium in Seattle after Thomas led the Seahawks’ defense to a 19-3 victory Sunday over the Arizona Cardinals. Susan was recognized by Earl with a trip to Seattle because she was his pre-calculus teacher at West Orange-Stark and tutored him for the SAT.