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

NFL Playoffs: Matt Ryan, Falcons dismantle Packers to reach Super Bowl LI

NFL Playoffs: Matt Ryan, Falcons dismantle Packers to reach Super Bowl LI

The Atlanta Falcons are headed to their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history after routing the Green Bay Packers 44-21 in the NFC championship game.

Matt Ryan threw for four touchdowns, including a 73-yard catch-and-run for a highlight-reel score by star receiver Julio Jones. The defense played just as crucial a role in containing quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' offense.

Rodgers had 287 yards with three touchdown passes and an interception. But the Falcons got to Rodgers with pressure and forced two Green Bay turnovers. Rodgers was outplayed by Ryan, who even ran for a 14-yard touchdown.

Atlanta will play either New England or Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl on Feb. 5 in Houston.

The only other time that Atlanta made the Super Bowl was in the 1998 season. The Falcons lost 34-19 to the Denver Broncos.

The Packers fell in the NFC title game for the second time in three seasons.

2017 NBA draft prospect watch: Jonathan Isaac has a banner week

2017 NBA draft prospect watch: Jonathan Isaac has a banner week

Two of the country's top prospects faced off in the Pac 12 this week while a top 10 forward saw his season come to a premature close. However, we begin this week with the breakout performance by Jonathan Isaac.

Jonathan Isaac, forward, Florida St. (6-11/205)
Isaac's potential had everyone in the basketball world's curiosity. Now his play on the court has their attention. The Seminoles hosted No. 15 Notre Dame, which had yet to lose in ACC play before the Wednesday game. 

The freshman forward dominated in the 83-80 win. He had 23 points on 7 for 9 shooting from the field. He made both his threes, all seven of his free throws and also had one assist. His other stats were also otherworldly. He picked up 10 rebounds and had seven(!) blocks, including one on a late Notre Dame shot to get back into the game after he'd put the Seminoles ahead with a three. All this was in just 25 minutes

He followed it up with a similar game against Louisville. In 28 minutes, he had 16 points on 4 for 7 shooting, making one three and, again, all seven free throws. Add in two assists and two blocks to aid in the 73-68 win. Isaac has shown himself to be an athletic freak, a potential stretch-four at the next level and one with tremendous defensive potential, displayed with his nine blocks this week.

OG Anunoby, forward, Indiana (6-8/235)
Anunoby has had an uneven season, but he, at the very least, showed flashes of the ability that make him a top player for this year's draft class. However, a knee injury suffered on Wednesday finished off Anunoby's season, forcing him to undergo surgery that will keep him off the court for the rest of Indiana's schedule.

This may knock him out of the 2017 draft entirely. As a freshman last year, his NCAA Tournament performance was enough to make him a lottery pick in an even weaker draft field than the upcoming one. He chose to remain in school and it isn't farfetched to believe he will return to Indiana for his junior year to get more seasoning, a better draft field and another year of education.

Lonzo Ball, guard, UCLA (6-6/190)
There are going to be quite a few marquee matchups in the Pac 12. One of the first this year came in the form of UCLA-Arizona in Los Angeles on Saturday. The No. 3 Bruins lost, 96-85, but that had nothing to do with Ball's standout performance (more on the Wildcats below). He pushed the ball in transition, drove to the hole with ease and made 4 of 8 threes with his quirky shot. 

He had 24 points on 10-for-15 shooting and had eight assists, six rebounds, two steals and a block. When you watch Ball score so naturally, it's easy to forget his potential as a point guard, but then he whips up beautiful assists as he did many times on Saturday. The freshman has everything you want in a point guard.

Lauri Markkanen, forward, Arizona (7-0/225)
The No. 14 Wildcats picked up their biggest win of the year, moving to 7-0 in conference play. As you can expect, Markkanen had a big game to push Arizona past UCLA. He had 18 points on 6 for 10 shooting, was 3 for 3 from three and made three free throws, all which grabbing seven boards. Like Isaac, he is a tantalizing talent as a stretch-four, hanging out around the perimeter and spotting up for threes well.

He now has 16 made threes in his last four games and has averaged over seven boards in that stretch. He's not unbelievably thin like many fours his age. The freshman really can battle down low and get his shot, and he justifies his prospect status on a game-by-game basis with his ability.

Markelle Fultz, guard, Washington (6-4/195)
Washington lost on Saturday, moving to 9-10 and 2-5 in conference. But it's worth talking about Fultz's standout Wednesday night. The freshman willed his team back from 17-points down with a 37-point performance en route to an 85-83 OT win over Colorado. In 43 minutes, he was 13 for 24 from the field and 11 for 15 from the free throw line.

Don't think he's just a scorer, though. He had eight assists, five rebounds, three steals and three blocks, doing it all for the Huskies as he usually does. The freshman sensation was 0 for 2 from three, but he is normally efficient from beyond the arc. He alone is the reason to watch the under .500 Huskies.

While the 9-10 Huskies are unlikely to make a late run towards March Madness, the strong Pac 12 should provide many marquee matchups for Fultz. He faces off vs. a stout Arizona team next Sunday afternoon. Six days later, the long awaited matchup between Fultz and Ball up in Seattle goes down with presumably many scouts in attendance.

Quick Hits

Malik Monk, guard, Kentucky (6-4/185)
Twenty-seven points on 9 for 14 shooting, 4 for 7 from three, 5 for 6 on free throws, three rebounds, one assist, two steals and four turnovers in an 85-69 win over No. 24 South Carolina.

Josh Jackson, guard/forward, Kansas (6-8/203)
Fifteen points on 6 for 14 shooting, 2 for 5 from three, 1 for 3 on free throws, five rebounds, two assists, four steals and six turnovers in a 79-67 win over Texas.

Jayson Tatum, forward, Duke (6-8/204)
Fourteen points on 4 for 9 shooting, 1 for 4 from three, 5 for 6 on free throws, three rebounds, one assist, three turnovers and five fouls in a 70-58 win over Miami.