All-Pro safety Earl Thomas III joined Field Gulls this week (with thanks to his first equity deal with Chef’s Cut Real Jerky) to talk about how this season is shaping up for the Seahawks, his relationship with coach Pete Carroll, his Legion of Boom teammates, and everything in between.
Thomas told Field Gulls which new secondary player has impressed him the most with his smarts, which teammate works the hardest, and which cornerback used to be on his MySpace background.
Field Gulls: You and Kam Chancellor came into the league together in 2010. Richard Sherman, Byron Maxwell, and Brandon Browner joined you in 2011 and Jeremy Lane in 2012. How do you think everyone being brought on at around the same time helped you from a developmental standpoint as an individual and as a secondary?
Earl Thomas: I think, as an organization, when you look at our coaches, you look at our coaching staff, and this goes for Coach Carroll, you see the coaches – how they’ve grown. You realize in your head that this is our purpose: being a part of a team, part of an organization that develops players into their best selves. And I think that’s true especially about the DB room, when you look at how Kam’s evolved, how Sherm’s evolved, and Lane. This year you’ll definitely be able to see it even more.
The Seahawks have had a unique aura about them since you all came in with Pete Carroll and John Schneider. What sets you guys apart from everybody else in the league?
I think it’s a combination of what Coach Carroll preaches and the other 80 percent of it is the people that he brings in and the mindset that everybody develops. I think the work ethic that we put in, our study habits, our discipline on and off the field. All that stuff counts.
Building on that, you’ve been classified by many as one of the hardest workers in the NFL; first one in the facility in the morning and last one out at night. Who are the younger players on the team who’ve taken initiative and go the extra mile from a preparation standpoint on a regular basis?
I would say Tyler Lockett. I would [also] say Tyvis Powell. He plays safety from Ohio State and he made the team. He’s a very smart football player. He catches on quickly. But the biggest teammate that jumps out to me as far as in that category would be Bobby Wagner, our Mike linebacker. He’s basically the quarterback of the defense. He kind of came in after me, Sherm, and Kam… Just to see him progress at his position is very encouraging to me because that’s a big, big, vital part of our defense.
You are universally thought of as one of the best safeties in the NFL, if not the best. Who are other players in the league at your position that impress you the most?
I would say Kam Chancellor, I would say Tyrann Mathieu, Ron Parker from the Kansas City Chiefs, Eric Reid from San Francisco… Yeah, that’s pretty much it. I’m sure I left some guys’ names off the list, but like I said, I respect the safety position in general. It doesn’t really get a lot of credit so I think my mindset – I know Kam Chancellor’s mindset – is bringing that to the forefront.
Who are some of the defensive backs you looked up to when you were younger?
I had Champ Bailey on my MySpace page as my background. I love Deion Sanders. Roy Williams, back from the Cowboys back in the day. And then, you know, there was…Michael Huff…Tarrell Brown, Tyrell Gatewood… You know, when I came into college, it was all about DBU [(Defensive Back University)] and Michael Griffin and these guys. They kind of gave me the inspiration I needed to take my game to the next level.
What was your favorite moment from your rookie year?
My game against the San Diego Chargers. That was probably one of the best moments of my career in my eyes.
What was your favorite moment of your entire career?
I don’t know yet! I haven’t really thought about that. *laughing*
I like that. Keep looking forward. The Seahawks look to have a deeper and more talented roster than they’ve had since the Super Bowl season. Obviously you have aspirations to win another, but do you have any other personal goals for this year?
My personal goal, really, is just to try and make this team better in any way possible. If we’re out on the field and I see something, I act on it, you know? Or if I see one of my teammates not doing well to a fault, I’ve got to ring them out. I just want to add to this team as much as possible.
Does the number 29 hold any personal significance to you?
Yeah. My redshirt freshman year in college, I was 29 and then I changed my number to 12. But I can’t wear 12 here because obviously it belongs to the 12th Man so I wanted to go back to that 29 jersey when I wore it at Texas. I thought it was a coincidence…so I did it.
Well I’m crossing my fingers for 29 picks, if that’s alright with you.
No doubt. *laughing*
In the 2014 preseason, you were part of an experiment as a punt returner that was concluded midway through the first regular season game. Now be honest with me, who’s the better returner: you or Tyler Lockett?
*laughing* I’m going with Tyler Lockett, man. The guy is a Pro Bowler. The guys block well for him, so I’m going with him.
Pete Carroll said in January that during the offseason, he was going to take you and Russell Wilson “to school”; in other words, to help Russell look at the game from a defensive standpoint and you look at the game from an offensive standpoint. Can you tell me about what we can expect as a result of this, or are you saving it all as a surprise for us?
Yeah, I think we’ll just let it play out. I don’t think we need to get carried away about anything. I don’t need any extra jitters. I don’t have any expectations but to go out and ball.
So I understand that you are beginning a partnership with Chef’s Cut Real Jerky. Can you tell me a little bit about your affiliation with them?
Yeah. Like you said, it’s a partnership. I’m just a stakeholder. This is my first [equity] deal, so I’m excited about that. I got introduced to Chef’s Cut through my agent and we hit it off.
There are multiple other high profile athletes involved with Chef’s Cut, such as Von Miller, David Ortiz, and Paul Goldschmidt. Have you had any interaction with them through this and, if so, how has it been getting involved with them?
I think, you know, me and Von are really, really tight. We have the same agent…we had fun at the shoot. We took pictures…I brought my daughter there so that was a great feeling…We’re on the same page with making it aware how great this product is and how good it tastes.
How often do you eat Chef’s Cut Jerky?
I make sure I have it during my week of prep. I really don’t eat that much, because I’m constantly running and I need my stomach to be light and not heavy. But I also need a source of protein and that’s where Chef’s Cut comes in.
How excited are you to get out on the field with your brothers and play regular season football?
Well, you know, it’s been the regular season for me, so I’m excited for the next opportunity, man, and I really believe that we have something special. We just need to bring it out when we get out there and take everything that we learned from the week of prep to the game. And damn… Just have fun, man. Just enjoy each other, feed off each other, especially when we’re at home. We’ve got to let that crowd do what they do best: scream. *laughing* I’m excited for this opportunity, especially Week One against Miami.
So are we, Earl. So are we.