The Earl Thomas that Russell Wilson loves isn’t the one whose fire burned holes into opponents.
Wilson’s Earl Thomas absolutely isn’t the guy who held out from much of his last year with the Seahawks. He’s not the Earl Thomas who flipped off his coach on his way out of Seattle, either.
“Earl and I are actually really close. We actually text quite a bit and communicate, even during the season sometime,” Wilson said Thursday, three days before Thomas returns to Seattle, where he became a Super Bowl champion and the best safety in the NFL over nine seasons.
Sunday, Thomas will be a Seahawks opponent for the first time. Now 30 years old, he is in his first season with the Baltimore Ravens. It’s been nine years, six Pro Bowls, three All-Pro selections, two Super Bowls and Seattle’s only NFL championship since Thomas was Pete Carroll’s first-round pick in the coach’s first draft running the Seahawks.
“Earl and I, we share a lot of similarities, just in terms of his passion for the game. He loves the game,” Wilson said.
“I think for us, my family and his, we share a lot of cool moments together. Our kids spend a lot of time together. Me and Earl, his wife and Ciara. And so it’s been really cool to get to know him outside of football, which is always amazing.”
Thomas shared similar thoughts about Wilson this week to reporters in Baltimore.
“Yes, I’m always going to have nothing but positivity when talking about Russ, because Russ has always been good to me and my family,” Thomas said. “My kids and his kids are close. My wife and his wife are close. And when you think about all the games we played together, there have been some times when we struggled, but there’s been more times when he came through for us when we needed him. So, it’s just the game.”
From how he played to how he looked to what he said and did off the field, Thomas was as unique a star as there’s been in Seattle sports during his time with the team from 2010-18.
Most know of Thomas’ sideline-to-sideline ferociousness attacking receivers, ball carriers and offenses. The Pacific Northwest and beyond also know him for his supernatural intensity. His game face could melt steel. And he wore it to practices.
“When you think about safeties, to be honest with you, he’s one of the top one, two or three safeties to ever play the game, in my opinion,” Wilson said.
“You think about the guys, the Polamalus, you think about Ed Reed—you think about Earl.”
Wilson is among the most veteran Seahawks who saw Thomas treat every workout like the most important football day of his life—whether in May, August, October, or the day before the Super Bowl.
Even in walkthroughs.
Thomas ripped into Seahawks teammates who took light, walkthrough practices in the days before games too lightly. He once berated some for chewing sunflower seeds during a walkthrough. When the ball was in the air in those no-speed workouts, Thomas was competing for it like it was fourth down in a playoff game.
“You know, the thing I love about Earl is he was such a true professional. He brought it every day,” Wilson said. “I remember, my locker was right across from his. And he’d had his sweatbands getting ready...”
The quarterback pantomimed Thomas putting on wrist bands.
“He’d do the same routine every day, having his headphones on and getting zoned in. He truly treated every walkthrough, every practice, every moment—from OTAs to training camp to regular season to the walkthroughs before Super Bowls—he treated every walkthrough the same. Just had amazing professionalism. Amazing focus. He’s a guy who envisioned making plays.
“A true pro.”
Yet that was only one side of the complete Thomas that the most senior Seahawks know.
“Yeah, yeah. He switched it up,” said K.J. Wright, the ninth-year, Pro Bowl linebacker who is the longest-tenured player in Seattle’s locker room with Thomas gone to Baltimore. “He definitely had his intense moments when he was all ball.
“But sometimes, he did let his hair down and just relaxed with the guys, had a drink or two. So he definitely showed that side, as well.”
Wright appreciated being asked about Thomas, the person outside of football, beyond the persona for which he’s renowned. Wright realizes few know Thomas the man. We only know Thomas as the fiendish and freakishly talented player.
Wilson still talks about how honored he is that he and his wife Ciara got to attend Thomas’ wedding. That was in April 2016 in Houston. Thomas married his high-school sweetheart from their native Orange, Texas, Nina Heisser.
This week, Wilson talked again about the fantastic time he and his wife had at Thomas’ bash. Kam Chancellor, Thomas’ partner at safety for the Seahawks in their Super Bowl heyday, was one of the 14 groomsmen in his wedding party.
Thomas is so unique, he wore a cape and a crown to get married.
“I remember Ciara and I went to his wedding, how cool that was,” Wilson said.
“So we’ve shared a lot of cool moments together. I love Earl. I love his family, too. His kids. Everything else.
“It’s been cool to get to know his family, his mom and his dad, too.”
According to Nina Thomas, Seattle “will always be home” for her husband, her and their daughter, Kaleigh.
This week leading up to Sunday’s reunion with the Seahawks and the city has affirmed that.
Many across the Northwest are still angry at Thomas for his contract holdout last spring and summer and for flipping off coach Pete Carroll from the back of a motorized cart 12 1/2 months ago in Arizona. That was moments after Thomas’ 2018 season and Seahawks career ended with a broken leg during a game.
All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner, who with Wilson and Wright are the remaining Seahawks who played with Thomas the longest, says Thomas should be welcomed back with roaring cheers from the sellout crowd at CenturyLink Field Sunday.
“It should be appreciation,” Wagner said of what he expects from Seahawks fans with Thomas the Raven. “He did so much for this organization. He did so much for this team. He’s a legend here.
“I would expect him to be well received. It’s a guy whose jersey will probably be retired. And there should be a lot of respect for him.”
The supreme intensity that separated Thomas from every other Seahawks—heck, from every other NFL player—fuels that fire Thomas talks about. It fueled the fire that burned through that middle finger in Arizona last fall.
But, no, Thomas the father and husband doesn’t flip off moms at the playground on the play dates he has with Wilson and his two young children.
“No. Earl is actually pretty relaxed. He’s pretty chill,” Wilson said. “When it comes to football when he puts his helmet on, he’s rolling.
“He’s a great dad. Great husband. Great family guy. It’s been cool getting to know him and being around him and just growing together.”