As Isaiah Thomas ripped through the line of scrimmage and delivered two sacks in his NFL debut Friday in Jacksonville, football was the second most important thing on his mind.
Fatherhood was first.
Thomas is set to become a dad in about 10 days when his girlfriend, Kelbi, gives birth to their first child and daughter, Aubri, in Tulsa. Thomas has constantly thought about Aubri as he grinds through his first NFL training camp, and he said she gave him an abundance of extra motivation to perform well in his first game with the Browns.
"That was the main thing I was focusing on, the big reasons what I do this for," Thomas said. "To do it for my family back home, I've got something to prove. I go out there every play with that mentality before I take the next snap."
Check out photos of players and coaches working throughout camp
Thomas, a 2022 seventh-round draft choice at DE, was one of the top Browns performers Friday with a pair of sacks and three tackles for a loss. He started his night in the first quarter by tackling Jaguars RB Travis Etienne for a six-yard loss, and he then sacked QB Jake Luton twice in the second half.
Head coach Kevin Stefanski has been impressed with what he's seen from Thomas in training camp practices. Thomas' big size at 6-foot-5 and 255 pounds makes him a tall challenge on the edge, and the Browns drafted him out of Oklahoma with the belief that those skills would be maximized in their defense.
"He is a really good kid," Stefanski said. "When we were doing our research during this draft process, he was a guy who is a program guy. He has been great in that area, great in the building and does what he is supposed to do and then really good size. He has big end potential for us. Getting a few sacks the other night, showing his technique, showing his energy, his relentless pursuit and those types of things."
Stefanski, who has a daughter of his own, said Thomas will have the time away he needs for when Aubri is born.
"He's going to be there," Stefanski said. "He's not going to miss that."
In the meantime, Thomas plans to continue putting in good work in Berea with the hopes of cracking a role in the rotation in the regular season.
He had no shortage of motivation before he jumped into his first NFL game on Friday, and when he returns from Tulsa after becoming a father, he knows Aubri will only help him even more.
"It's kind of hard being away from them,' Thomas said, "but this is for the greater good of my future and their future. I'm just optimistic on things, looking at the bright side of the picture. That's what I look at."