Browns tackle Joe Thomas achieves biggest victory, enshrined into Hall of Fame
Joe Thomas, former Cleveland Browns left tackle, has been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Joe Thomas, the left tackle for the Cleveland Browns, achieved a victory that surpassed anything he could have accomplished on the football field. After enduring years of losing, misery, and constant turnover during his tenure with the Browns, Thomas was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday. This was his personal Super Bowl moment.
Supported by a large group of passionate Browns fans, Thomas, who was elected in his first year of eligibility, was presented by his wife, Annie, and their four children. In his speech, Thomas touched on the importance of family and his football journey in the Midwest.
As he unveiled his bronze bust on the stage at Tom Benson Stadium, Thomas grappled with his emotions during a heartfelt 20-minute speech. He sprinkled in some self-deprecating humor and playful jabs at his time playing for the struggling Browns teams.
Throughout his 167 games, Cleveland had a dismal record of 48-119, giving Thomas a winning percentage of .287, the worst among all 369 Hall of Fame inductees. However, he proudly wore the gold jacket presented to him by Jerome Bettis, a Hall of Fame running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Thomas expressed gratitude towards the six Browns coaches he played under, acknowledging the valuable lessons he learned from them.
He also addressed the revolving door of quarterbacks that Cleveland had during his time with the team. Thomas humorously mentioned that he blocked for more starting quarterbacks than any other player in NFL history, a total of 20. Despite the challenges, Thomas made 10 consecutive Pro Bowls and was a six-time All-Pro.
The enshrinement weekend served as a reunion for Thomas and many of his former teammates, particularly fellow offensive linemen. They returned to Northeast Ohio to celebrate and party with him. Thomas expressed his gratitude towards his teammates for always showing up for him and giving him the confidence to rely on them. He jokingly apologized to his backup left tackles for not giving them an opportunity to showcase their skills on the field but acknowledged their hard work during practice.
One of Thomas's closest teammates, Joel Bitonio, who played alongside him as the Browns' left guard, made the trip to celebrate with him after finishing practice in Berea, Ohio. Despite the numerous lean seasons in Cleveland, former Browns punter Dave Zastudil praised Thomas for his unwavering dedication and ability to bring humor to the locker room.
Thomas credited his humility and values to his parents, Eric and Sally. He thanked his father for teaching him the importance of hard work and loyalty, recalling memories of him working in harsh conditions in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Thomas acknowledged that his father's example taught him the value of showing up and being available.
Throughout his career, Thomas received unwavering loyalty from Browns fans, who remained dedicated to the team despite years of double-digit losses. He expressed his gratitude to the fans for their unwavering support, acknowledging their role as the heartbeat of the Cleveland Browns. Thomas considered it an honor to represent them both on and off the field for 11 seasons.
In an introductory video, Annie Thomas emphasized her husband's reliability and consistency. She described him as someone who can always be counted on, no matter the circumstances. Thomas's legacy is his ability to be there for others and his commitment to perfection.
Overall, Joe Thomas's induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame was a momentous occasion that celebrated his resilience, dedication, and impact on the game. Despite the challenges he faced, Thomas's humility, loyalty, and unwavering support from family and fans made him a beloved figure in Cleveland and a deserving Hall of Famer.