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

Eagles-Vikings 5 things: Game much bigger than Sam Bradford's return

Eagles-Vikings 5 things: Game much bigger than Sam Bradford's return

Eagles vs. Vikings
1 p.m. on FOX

Eagles +3

A familiar face comes to town on Sunday when the Eagles host the Vikings, the NFL's last unbeaten team at 5-0.

There's more to this matchup than a certain jilted quarterback returning to Lincoln Financial Field though. After an inspired 3-0 start, the Eagles have come out flat in two consecutive games, both losses. If this squad has any hope of getting back on track in Week 7, they can't afford to focus on the high-profile former teammate in purple sleeves.

Grinding it out
How good is the Vikings' defense? Even though they're ranked fourth in the league against the run and eighth in yards per carry allowed, they've faced the second-highest number of rushing attempts. Simply put, between a fierce pass-rush and ball-hawking secondary, offenses are afraid to put the ball in the air against this team.

Opponents have decided the best way to beat the Minnesota defense is by keeping the ball on the ground — shorten the game, try to create manageable third downs and play the field position game. Of course, the best way for the Eagles to beat Washington's 28th-ranked run defense last week, with a fifth-round rookie right tackle making his first career start mind you, also would've been to hand the ball off early and often, which wasn't exactly the game plan that we saw.

As good as Carson Wentz is, the Eagles probably aren't going to beat this team by airing the ball out. It may be inefficient and look ugly, but this time, head coach Doug Pederson needs to lean on the ground attack and take the pressure off of his first-year quarterback and tackle. Otherwise, a Vikings defense that ranks third in the NFL in sacks and fourth in interceptions can take this game over.

Self-inflicted wounds
Ticky-tack calls or not, you can't blame the judgment of the officials for all of the penalties the Eagles have taken the past two weeks. Last week in Washington, they drew 13 flags for 114 yards. The week before, it was 14 flags for 111 yards. Is it really any coincidence in two losses the Eagles have been penalized 27 times for 225 yards? Unlikely.

Were one or two or even a handful of those calls excessive? Have officials missed some potential calls that could have gone the other way? Yes and yes, as is always the case. When it's that many penalties for that many yards though, you can only place so much blame on the refs.

Simply put, the players need to clean up their acts. According to, the Eagles are committing the most penalties per game at 9.8. Only one other team is above 9.0. All excuses aside, the Eagles lack discipline right now, and it's hard to beat anybody when they are continuously shooting themselves in the foot, let alone the only undefeated squad in football.

No gimmes
There is no bigger indicator of winning and losing in the NFL than turnovers. So what happens when the two teams who cough the ball up the least are going head-to-head?

One thing the Eagles did correct in Washington was the little giveaway problem that cost them the game in Detroit. After losing their first fumble and throwing their first interception of the season in the final three minutes of their loss at Detroit, the offense went back to playing turnover-free football on Sunday, one of the positive things that could be said for the performance.

Yet the only team that's committed fewer turnovers than the Eagles is the Vikings, who have just one through five games. The ball security these clubs have displayed is remarkable bordering on unheard of. So what happens when the unstoppable force meets the immovable object? The first one to blink, or in this case make a mistake, might just cost themselves the game in what could be a tightly contested tilt.

Just a pit stop
If it feels like the Eagles' 34-3 romp of the Steelers at the Linc was a long time ago, well, it has been almost a month. Since then, there's been a bye week followed by trips to Detroit and Washington, putting the last home game at exactly four weeks ago.

Don't get used to the feeling either. After their game against the Vikings on Sunday, the Eagles go back on the road for two contests against the division rival Cowboys and Giants.

What does it all mean? Besides a travel-heavy stretch, it suggests this sandwich game with the Vikings is an especially significant spot on the Eagles' schedule, particularly given the slow starts they've jumped out to as the visiting team of late. That can't be blamed entirely on going on the road of course, but it certainly hasn't helped. Vikings or not, the Eagles could use a positive showing on Sunday before they go away again.

The Bradford Bowl
You didn't really think we were going to completely gloss over Sam Bradford, did you? Not even mention his name?

It's interesting, because right now, the trade that sent Bradford to the Vikings and cleared the way for Wentz to start at quarterback for the Eagles looks like a win-win. Both head coaches agreed with that sentiment as well. Mike Zimmer says Bradford gave the Vikings an energy back after starter Teddy Bridgewater was lost for the season with an improbable injury, while despite coming back down to earth a bit the last two weeks, it's obvious the Eagles' future is bright with Wentz.

That being said, there are some additional bragging rights at stake for both signal-callers this week, whether they acknowledge it or not. If the Eagles win, it shows their gamble on Wentz being prepared to start right away was justified. If the Vikings win, pundits could argue the Eagles never should've traded Bradford in the first place.

These are only narratives of course, and the Eagles' investment in Wentz and the Vikings' desperation trade for Bradford are both left to be judged somewhere down the road, long after this game has been played. Nonetheless, the result on Sunday is sure to spark some interesting debate in the coming days.

Penn State upsets No. 2 Ohio State, 24-21

Penn State upsets No. 2 Ohio State, 24-21


STATE COLLEGE – As his team slogged through back-to-back 7-6 seasons in his first two years as Penn State’s head coach, Langhorne native James Franklin heard time and again that he was in need of a signature victory.

Now he has one, even if he refuses to admit it.

Junior cornerback Grant Haley returned a blocked field goal 60 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 4:27 left as the Nittany Lions stunned second-ranked Ohio State 24-21 on Saturday night.

“That’s for you (media) guys, all that signature stuff,” Franklin said.

Not exactly.

“It’s just a game that put Penn State back on the map,” Haley said. “We needed that signature win, and we did it tonight.”

The fans stormed the field after the Lions, 5-2 after their third straight victory this season, beat a ranked team for the first time since 2013 (Wisconsin). It was also PSU’s first victory over a team ranked in the top five since 1999 (Arizona) and its first over a team slotted as high as No. 2 since 1990 (Notre Dame).

Ohio State (7-1) saw winning streaks of 20 straight road games and 17 straight Big Ten road games come to an end, despite building a 21-7 lead through three quarters.

The Lions whisked 90 yards in five plays to cut the gap to seven with 13:32 left in the game, with quarterback Trace McSorley running two yards for the TD.

Freshman linebacker Cam Brown then blocked Cameron Johnston’s punt to set up a 34-yard field goal by Tyler Davis with 9:33 remaining, making it 21-17.

Ohio State mounted a drive behind J.T. Barrett, their splendid quarterback, moving from its own 13 to the PSU 28. Barrett’s 34-yard connection with wide receiver Noah Brown was the big play.

But the Buckeyes stalled, and Tyler Durbin came on to attempt a 45-yard field goal. Penn State safety Marcus Allen made a leaping block, however, and Haley scooped up the bouncing ball and beat Durbin and Johnston, the holder, down the left sideline for the go-ahead score.

Ohio State’s final drive of the night ended with a pair of Penn State sacks, the last a combined effort by defensive linemen Kevin Givens and Evan Schwan with 1:02 left.

When the final gun sounded, several Penn State players sprinted toward the south end zone and launched themselves into the front row of the stands, Lambeau Leap-style, among the delirious students. And thousands of fans, all clad in white for PSU’s traditional White Out, flooded the field.

“This is for everybody,” Franklin said later. “This community’s been through so much in the last five years (a reference to the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal and its aftermath), and this is a big step in the right direction, in terms of healing. I said very, very early on that for us to get where we want to be, we need this entire community together, and a win like tonight – I know I’m biased – but I believe that football has the ability to bring a community together like nothing else.”

Moments later, he caught himself and said he “didn’t want to spend a lot of time talking about the big picture.”

Rather, he added, “I just want to enjoy tonight.”