Remember This Guy: William Thomas (And the 1995 Giants)

Remember This Guy: William Thomas (And the 1995 Giants)

My name is Dave, and I write for the Sixers site, Liberty Ballers. I’m a 29 year old man still trapped in the 1990s. When I’m not leaving long-winded voicemails with Third Eye Blind lyrics on my wife’s phone, I’m updating Sharone Wright’s Wikipedia page.

These are my stories.

That’s a hold by the way.

Name: William Thomas

Tra Thomas, Dave?: No, the other William Thomas

College: Texas A&M

Eagles Tenure: 1991-1999

Nickname: Willie T

Semi-Believable WIP Phone Call from 1995:

Hey Jody, first time, long time. Just wanted to get your thoughts on maybe trying out Willie T at tight end? Just don’t think Jimmie Johnson is getting the job done. Rhodes needs to create a spark. Imma hang up and listen.

A 4th Round pick from Texas A & M, William Thomas played linebacker for the Birds from 1991 through 1999. He was a Philadelphia staple in the 90’s, like ECW on the Sports Channel or a Clarence Weatherspoon pump fake. Out of a possible 144 regular season games during that time frame, Thomas played in 142. It was easily the most publicized consecutive games played streak in the 1990s.

He was affectionately known as Willie T.

Willie T was always smack dab in the thick of things. As the legend goes, he once recovered a fumble in Phoenix, while simultaneously performing magic tricks for a delighted crowd in the downstairs bar at Finnegan’s Wake. When asked about this feat, Willie T slyly replied, “It’s magic.”

Googling “William Thomas Eagles Football Card” is like a who’s who of 90’s quarterbacks.

Is that Steve Walsh? That must be Steve Walsh. I’d recognize those quads anywhere. Thomas was a menace in opposing backfields. He was active in coverage, disrupting passing lanes like a young Pepe Sanchez. And he looked the part, too. He rocked these larger than life shoulder pads, like he had tucked two airplane pillows into his jersey.

“Willie, you using both of those pillows? Yeah? Ok, it’s no big deal, really. It’s just that, my neck is a bit, you know, it’s kind of a long flight to New Zealand. “

In 1995, Thomas picked off seven balls on his way to a Pro Bowl berth. Six of those interceptions came at the expense of NFC East rivals, the Cardinals and the Giants. Now, those 1995 Giants were led by “Run, Run, Run, Punt” Dan Reeves, and quarterback, Dave Brown. Throw in a splash of Tommy Maddux, and it was like the holy trinity of ineptitude. The Brown/Maddux quarterback controversy split the boroughs of New York at the seams. Relationships ended. Life-changing friendships formed. Everyone had an opinion.

I was actually fortunate enough to get my hands on a recorded conversation from August 1995 that took place in Hoboken, NJ. A conversation which I’m happy to transcribe for you today.

“We gotta go with Dave Brown. We gotta! He knows Reeves’ system. He knows the playbook!“

Ma! You’re wrong, ma! You’re wrong! We gotta give the keys to Maddux. He has the intangibles. The intangibles, ma!

William Thomas had an unspoken chemistry with both signal callers. If Willie T was open in the flat, then Tommy Maddux found him. If Willie T found some daylight in the middle of the field, then ‘Ol Five Fingers Brown hit ‘em between the numbers. In one particularly ugly 17-14 Eagles win over the Giants, Tommy Maddux went 6-23 for 49 yards and three picks, which is like .0026 yards per pass attempt.

(Fast forward to the 3:44 mark for NFL Primetime highlights. Come for the highlights, stay for the Ray Rhodes Starter jacket).

Now, Pro-Football Reference says that Thomas only had two career interceptions off of Tommy Maddux, but that’s because Pro-Football Reference is lying. I like to defer to the old reliable eye test in these situations. My memory is still sharp as a tack. If I can rattle off every WWF Tag Team Champ from 1985 to 1995 … in order (I see you over there, Men on a Mission), then recalling Thomas’ picks off the Giants is child play. All we Willie T Truthers out there know the correct answer is 71.

71 career interceptions against the Giants.

Dave Brown: 34

Tommy Maddux: 18

Phil Simms: 6

Jeff Hostetler: 4

Kent Graham: 9

Danny Kanell: 0. That Danny Kanell sure valued the football, what can I say.

William Thomas and the Giants quarterback de jour were attached at the hip. They were arguably one of the most influential tandems from my childhood, just ahead of my mom and dad, and right behind Eisenreich/Chamberlain.

After nine seasons with the Birds, Thomas signed with the Oakland Raiders before retiring in 2001. In 2006, Willie T found his name in the headlines after Eagles offensive lineman, William “Tra” Thomas, requested to be referred to by his birth name. And while the Eagles employed two very productive players named William Thomas, they’re still searching for just one half-decent Nate Allen.

So today, remember William Thomas. Willie T. He survived the Kotite and Rhodes years. And as we can attest, that’s no small feat.

You can follow Dave on Twitter at @wheresbenrivera

Flyers-Blackhawks 10 observations: Have yourself a day, Ivan Provorov

Flyers-Blackhawks 10 observations: Have yourself a day, Ivan Provorov

It was the Ivan Provorov show at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday afternoon when the Flyers took down the NHL-leading Blackhawks, 3-1 (see Instant Replay).
 
The orange and black are now on a season-best four-game winning spree and have climbed past the Capitals for fourth place in the Metropolitan Division.
 
Let’s delve into the game with 10 observations.
 
1. Remember this? When Provorov tripped over his own two skates in Chicago? It was a bit of an embarrassing moment for the 19-year-old. It resulted in an easy Blackhawks goal and, in many ways, served as Provorov’s rookie initiation as he finished a minus-5. Well, you can forget all that. The Flyers’ young, prized blueliner, who entered with one goal in 25 games, showed Chicago his true colors Saturday by ripping off two markers in 31 seconds of the second period. Good for him.
 
2. Brayden Schenn was extra demonstrative after extending the Flyers’ lead to 3-1 in the second period. Can you blame him? The 25-year-old had just one goal in his last 17 games. Schenn has been up and down the lineup, playing on all four lines and at both wing and center. He looked good here with Travis Konecny, who delivered a surgical pass to set up Schenn.
 
3. Patrick Kane had a secondary assist but that was all as the Flyers kept him mostly quiet. Kane, a four-time All-Star and last season’s Hart Memorial Trophy winner for NHL MVP, had 24 points coming in, good for seventh in the league.
 
4. Steve Mason was good in net. He’s now won three straight, a span in which he’s stopped 90 of 95 shots.
 
5. Aside from a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty by Nick Cousins in the third period, the Flyers played with great discipline. Chicago wasn’t awarded any power plays until there was 6:31 left in the game. The Flyers forced the Blackhawks to beat them at full strength and they couldn’t.
 
6. Cousins, Chris VandeVelde and Michael Raffl all tallied an assist apiece. The Flyers outshot Chicago, 30-27, and had just seven giveaways.
 
7. The Blackhawks’ opening goal was a nice one. Artem Anisimov adeptly eluded a sliding Provorov in front of the crease and fed Artemi Panarin for a one-timer. Mason had no chance. Panarin, as you may know, beat out Shayne Gostisbehere for last season’s Calder Memorial Trophy given to the NHL’s top rookie. The 25-year-old has nine goals and 22 points this season.
 
8. Unexpectedly, Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford underwent an appendectomy at a Philadelphia hospital Saturday, putting Chicago in bind. Second-string netminder Scott Darling received the start, but the Blackhawks needed an emergency backup. Enter the pride of Temple, Eric Semborski, a 23-year-old from Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, who played club hockey for the Owls. Chicago inked him to an amateur tryout, essentially for one day. He was seen in warmups wearing a Temple mask, which sported “Philly Proud” and “Temple Tuff.”
 
 9. Chicago came in 13-3-2 since Oct. 28. However, the Blackhawks overall are 6-6-1 on the road compared to 10-1-2 at home. The Flyers did catch a break as Chicago was without Crawford and three-time All-Star Jonathan Toews (back). Still, a really good win for the Flyers against a team that was atop the NHL.
 
10. Wondering if there were any “woo” chants in the first home game since Jakub Voracek blasted fans for it? Well, only a select few had the audacity to try it but the woos never gained steam. Fans are past it.

Instant Replay: Flyers 3, Blackhawks 1

Instant Replay: Flyers 3, Blackhawks 1

BOX SCORE

The Flyers now have a legitimate win streak going.
 
They defeated the Chicago Blackhawks, 3-1, in a Saturday afternoon matinee at the Wells Fargo Center for their fourth straight victory (see 10 observations).
 
It’s the longest win streak of the season for Dave Hakstol’s club.
 
Rookie defenseman Ivan Provorov scored twice in the second period just 31 seconds apart to erase a 1-0 deficit and put the Flyers ahead. The Flyers scored three goals on their first four shots that period.
 
Chicago has now lost 13 consecutive regular-season games in Philadelphia. The Hawks last won here in 1996-97, when the building opened as CoreStates Center.

Steve Mason (26 Saves) made his third straight start in goal for the Flyers, while Scott Darling was a late sub in goal for Chicago given Corey Crawford’s emergency appendectomy surgery. 
 
Notable goals
Artemi Panarin’s one-timer from the left circle in the first period saw all five Flyers on the opposite side of the ice. 
 
Twice is nice
Provorov’s first goal was high shot above the left circle. His second goal came from the high slot low toward the left post on Darling.
 
What-a-pass
Travis Konecny threaded a puck between two Blackhawks to Brayden Schenn’s stick to set up the Flyers' third goal in the second period.
 
Inconclusive
In an effort to help Mason, Provorov had his glove hand over the puck in the Flyers' net and cleared it out. Replays were inconclusive. All you could see is Provorov moving his glove hand and the puck squirting out … but from where? It should have been a goal, but if the video doesn’t show the puck in the net, even if logic suggests otherwise, it’s not a goal. 
 
Goalie report
Mason didn’t face the kind of shot challenges that Darling did, but he did a very good job of slowing things down and forcing faceoffs by covering up shots in the paint rather than attempt to keep pucks alive.
 
Power play
The Flyers had their pickings on their first opportunity and the Hawks’ lowly 30th-ranked PK units did nothing but rely on Darling to make saves.
 
Penalty kill
Chicago didn’t have a full power play. It got an abbreviated one in the third period, when the Flyers were called for too many men on the ice during a power play, which is rather incongruous when you think about it.
 
Father and sons
The Flyers' annual event began Saturday, as players’ fathers watched the game here at the Wells Fargo Center. The fathers will travel with the team to Nashville for Sunday’s game as well.
 
Scratches
Defenseman Nick Schultz (healthy) and Radko Gudas (ill); forwards Boyd Gordon (back spasms), Sean Couturier (left knee) and Scott Laughton (healthy); goalie Michal Neuvirth (left knee).
 
Up next
This is a back-to-back situation for the Flyers. They leave after the game for Nashville, where they will meet the Predators on Sunday at a rare playing time of 6 p.m.