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Joe Thomas is Headed to the CFB Hall of Fame | The Players’ Tribune

Joe Thomas is Headed to the CFB Hall of Fame | The Players’ Tribune

– I knew I had a good college
career, but I had no idea that I had done enough in those
four years to even be considered a Hall of Famer. It kinda feels like
I’m stealing it almost. It goes back a little bit to that fear that I had of being a fraud. I guess the hay is already
in the barn on the College Football Hall of Fame, so
they can’t take it away from me now. When I was growing up, my dad
and I, we would go fishing just about every Saturday. For me, fishing really taught me patience, and it taught me the ability
to have some perseverance. When you throw the
fishing lure in the water, you can’t expect to
have success right away. It was one of those things
that was hard for me to learn, but you gotta be willing
to enjoy the process along the way. It was a little intimidating
coming into Wisconsin, knowing all the great offensive lineman
that had come before me. As an offensive lineman we’re
always judged by the number of mistakes we make, not the
number of great plays we make. The night before games I would
wake myself up and I would live almost in this fear of being exposed. That fear of failure really
drove me every single day. Those fears were expressed
in how much preparation I did going into every single game. I wanted to know absolutely
everything I possibly could about my opponent – specifically the guy I
was gonna go against. I wanted to know what his major was. I wanted to know if he had a girlfriend. I wanted to know what city he grew up in. I wanted to know him better
than he knew himself. I knew what he was going
to do before he decided he was gonna do it. I think about my torn ACL that I got in our bowl game my junior year. It wasn’t too many snaps
into the game, and I just put my foot in the ground the
wrong way – my knee buckled, I knew what happened right away. I knew I blew out my knee. I wasn’t sure I was ever
gonna be the same, ever again. Usually the mental battle
is, me vs. my opponent or me vs. my playbook. But now it was me versus
my knee and my body. I was not certain that I was gonna be able to come back and be the same player. That mental struggle that I went through, motivated me even further
to get back to my old self. I was able to come in and
attack that rehab every day and feel encouraged that I was
headed in the right direction. Mentally you still have
that hurdle to get over of, “What happens when my knee
gets hit for the first time?” The first game of my senior
season, about three quarters of the way through the game,
where I gave up a sack – all of a sudden I realized, “Oh my
gosh, I have other things to worry about besides my knee.” I was so upset about the
stupid mistake that I had made. That allowed me to put that aside and say, “My knee is not important anymore. I’ve got a job to do and I
need to focus on this job.” After that, I was able to
sail through my senior year. I played better each week,
and I was able to play well enough throughout the
course of that season to win the Outland Trophy. I think it went back
to being a little kid, on that pond fishing, and having that patience
and understanding that if you go out and you want to
catch dinner and you want to get your limit, you’re
not gonna do it one cast. It’s all about putting every single day back-to-back-to-back, working towards those goals.
And that’s how you heal a knee, and that’s how you
catch a limit out on the pond. There’s a lot of guys that
have gone through college that have won the Outland
Trophy, that have been named All-Americans, that have
won national championships. And so, for me, when I got
that call that I was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, it was extremely humbling. I got an opportunity to kind of reflect on what got me to that place. The work that I put in – not only just in college
but in high school, in peewee football, in middle school. Being selected definitely
felt like validation for all the hard work and the
commitment and the sacrifice that I made throughout my college career.

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