Thomas prepares for homecoming

Posted Oct 19, 2013

On Sunday, Cleveland Browns left tackle Joe Thomas will play his first regular-season game at Lambeau Field, a place he always wanted to go as a child.

The Cleveland Browns travel to Green Bay for a non-conference game against the Packers at Lambeau Field Sunday, and for six-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas, it will be a homecoming of sorts.

Thomas grew up in Brookfield, Wisconsin, about two hours south of Green Bay, and started following football right around the time quarterback Brett Favre and defensive end Reggie White were leading the green and gold to a Super Bowl championship.

“I’ve been to almost every stadium, and nothing really compares,” Thomas said. “It’s really like a family, community atmosphere because the stadium’s been renovated, but it’s the same stadium it’s been forever in the same community.

“People park in front yards and walk to the game. It’s like a college atmosphere almost. A lot of Big Ten stadiums, like Wisconsin, are in the community, and that’s kind of the feel that I think you get in Lambeau.”

Thomas says going to Lambeau is “definitely a thrill for everybody in the locker room.”

“It’s one of the most historic, legendary places to play in the NFL,” Thomas said. “So many great players who are in the Hall of Fame have played there, and it’s a special place. It’s the only community-owned franchise. It’s the only stadium that’s kind of right in the middle of a community. It’s a special place to play for anybody, and it’s still special to me, growing up a big fan.”

Lambeau Field is such a special place that the first time Thomas set foot inside of the 80,750-seat facility, he was playing for the Browns.

The Green Bay community is by far the NFL’s smallest, with a population of 104,868 at the end of 2012. That means 77 percent of the city of Green Bay can fit into Lambeau Field on game day, which is part of the reason why season tickets to the Packers have been sold out since 1960, and a waiting list is decades long exists.

“I think there’s a 70-year waiting list for season tickets or something crazy like that,” Thomas joked. “I wasn’t ever lucky enough to go to any games because those tickets are hard to come by, but I remember watching a lot of games. The most memorable game for me was probably the NFC Championship where they scored right at the end of the game to put them into the first Super Bowl.

“That was really special because I remember my dad telling me about what it was like when he was a kid. Then, they had all those bad years and Mike Holmgren came back. Watching that all happen was pretty cool for a young kid.”

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