Thomas’ extraordinary skills the big difference-maker
If there was one thing consistent with watching Orange’s Earl Thomas playing football during the past half-dozen years—it was always very exciting.
It didn’t matter whether he was wearing the silver and blue of the West Orange-Stark High Mustangs or the burnt orange of the University of Texas. When Earl Thomas was on the football field, it was very exciting to watch him play the game.
This same type of excitement was prevalent Thursday night when ESPN televised the first round of the 2010 NFL draft. We knew deep down based on all of the pre-draft hype that Earl would probably be selected somewhere in the middle of the first round.
But there always was that same optimism that his name would come up before the gurus said it would, kind of like hoping when an opponents’ pass was thrown in his direction, Earl would intercept it and run it back for six points.
We admire Earl for turning down an invitation to fly to New York to be at the ESPN studio for the draft. He opted to remain in Orange and watch the draft on TV with his family and the hundreds of friends and fans who he invited to the Sixth Street Community Church where his grandfather, Earl Thomas Sr. is the pastor.
When the ESPN panel of experts mentioned how Earl would fit the needs of the Philadelphia Eagles as the draft’s No. 13 pick, the plot thickened and the tension increased. But when Michigan defensive end Brandon Graham’s name was called, the anticipated joy turned into a puzzled look on many of the faces at the church.
But the bewilderment didn’t last very long as ESPN showed Earl on the phone as the Seattle Seahawks went on the clock for their No. 14 first-round selection. Within a couple of minutes the announcement came that Earl Thomas was the first-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks.
The moment that Earl had been waiting for had finally arrived. The main reason he decided to leave the Texas Longhorns for the NFL after his sophomore season was to be financially able to provide his parents with suitable housing, something they haven’t had since Hurricane Rita destroyed their home in the fall of 2005.
Although Earl hasn’t signed a contract with the Seahawks at this writing, he’s expected to come to terms with his new team soon. He was introduced to the press corps in Seattle Saturday along with Oklahoma State offensive tackle Russell Okung, who also was selected in the first round by Seattle.
Pete Carroll made it clear at the press conference that both of the Seahawks’ No. 1 draft choices will be starting for the team this fall. Earl will be opposite seven-year veteran safety Jordan Babineaux of Port Arthur while Okung will be counted on to protect the quarterback in passing situations.
Earl was asked what he thought about Coach Carroll and he replied, “He reminds me a lot of Coach (Mack) Brown.” He also said he was very impressed with the Seahawks stadium and training complex. “This is one of the best facilities I’ve visited in the past couple of months,” Thomas added.
Thomas said that he was anxious to learn the Seahawks’ defense and get started with the team but before that begins, he wants to spend as much time as possible with his grandfather, who is in ICU at a Beaumont hospital.
Everyone was excited that Earl was drafted by Seattle except perhaps one individual—Taylor Mays—a defensive safety who played at the University of Southern California four years for Pete Carroll, who was named as the new head coach of the Seattle Seahawks earlier this year.
Carroll had persuaded Mays to remain at Southern Cal for his senior year instead of opting for the NFL draft in 2009 where he was fairly certain to have been a No 1 or No. 2 draft pick.
After taking the Seattle job, Carroll implied that the Seahawks would use their top draft pick for a safety and that Mays would probably be his choice. But Carroll had no idea that Earl Thomas would be available when Seattle went on the clock.
And although Mays was an All-American, he did not have many of the skills that Earl Thomas had displayed in his two years at Texas. It was a no-brainer to take Earl over Mays.
Even Mays realized Thomas was a versatile, athletic safety who can also play cornerback and was rated higher than he was by the scouting services. “Earl is a very, very good player,” Mays said. “I knew he’d go higher than me.”
On draft day Mays had caught a flight to his hometown, which just happens to be Seattle, and carried his new charcoal suit to wear when his name was announced.
But to his dismay, Mays’ name didn’t come up until Friday as the No. 49 choice in the second round by the San Francisco 49ers, who coincidentally happen to be in the same division as Seattle. The two teams meet twice each season, the first one being the 2010 season opener at Seattle.
Ever since Earl was in high school and was in my wife Susan’s pre-calculus class, she was his No. 1 fan and rarely missed one of his games either at West Orange-Stark High School or for the University of Texas games on television.
And she already has been lobbying loudly for us to subscribe to a satellite service so we can watch all of the Seattle Seahawks games.
KWICKIES…The Lamar baseball team’s seven-game winning streak came to a screeching halt Sunday when they were walloped 14-4 by UT-San Antonio in the final game of their three-game series Sunday afternoon at Vincent-Beck Field in Beaumont. The Big Red won the opener 4-2 over the Roadrunners Friday, outlasted UTSA 13-8 in a slugfest Saturday before Sunday’s loss, which gives Lamar an 11-10 record and a tie for sixth place with McNeese State in the Southland Conference standings. The tie will be broken this weekend when the Cards travel to Lake Charles Friday for the opener of the three-game series with the Cowboys and then return to Vincent-Beck to conclude the series Saturday and Sunday. Lamar (26-16) plays its final non-conference game Wednesday when it travels to meet the University of Houston.
Two weeks ago when the Houston Astros were 0-8 and averaging only 1.75 runs per game, we were hoping they wouldn’t be the first major league team to go 0-162. Since then the ‘Stroes won eight of their last 10 games by averaging 4.6 runs per contest and are tied for third place in the NL Central Division standings with Milwaukee, both with 8-10 records and three games out of first place through Sunday’s action. The Astros won two-of-three from the Florida Marlins before sweeping the three-games series last weekend from the hapless Pittsburgh Pirates. After an off-day Monday, the Astros conclude their nine-game home stand with a three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds, which began Tuesday.
Trainer Todd Pletcher’s best chance to break his string of 24 winless starts in the Kentucky Derby was squelched when favorite Eskendereya was scratched from Saturday’s Run for the Roses because of swelling in the colt’s left front leg. Pletcher called this horse the best he ever brought to the Derby.
Jason Bohn, who led the Zurich Classic from wire-to-wire, won the event last weekend in Avondale, La. and earned $1.15 million for the victory. He made $395,321 in his previous eight starts this year. Former Port Neches-Groves and Lamar golfer Chris Stroud finished 11 strokes behind Bohn and collected a check for $61,897.
JUST BETWEEN US…When No. 14 Earl Thomas from West Orange-Stark and the University of Texas and No. 19 Sean Weatherspoon of Jasper and the University of Missouri were both picked in the first round of the 2010 NFL draft, it marked the first time since 1992 that a player from Southeast Texas was taken in the first round. The last player taken was West Orange-Stark all-stater and Texas A&M All-American Kevin Smith who was taken No. 17 by the Dallas Cowboys. Thomas was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks and Weatherspoon was chosen by the Atlanta Falcons. The last time two players from Southeast Texas were drafted in the first round was back in 1967 when Beaumont Charlton-Pollard’s Bubba Smith was the No. 1 pick by the Baltimore Colts and Beaumont Hebert’s Mel Farr was No. 7 by the Detroit Lions.