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Joe Thomas - Hall of Fame 2023

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Joe Thomas 'overwhelmed with emotion' in days following Hall of Fame announcement

The outpouring of support has been tremendous for Thomas, who will now spend the next six months preparing for his Hall of Fame ceremony


Six days after he was officially named a first-ballot inductee in the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2023, Joe Thomas has barely had time to slow down and rest. 

First, he had a nearly sleepless night last Thursday when he took the stage at NFL Honors with the rest of the enshrinees and proceeded to celebrate with other Hall of Famers and former teammates. That lifestyle continued through most of Thomas' visit in Phoenix, where he seemed to be in constant celebration-mode with his wife, Annie, and his four kids. 

It's been an unforgettable week of emotions and joy for Thomas, who finally arrived back at home in Wisconsin on Tuesday.

"I'm definitely worn out from a busy weekend," Thomas said Wednesday in a Zoom call with local reporters. "We brought all four of our kids out there. We really wanted to make them a part of it because we felt like obviously they were a big part of the whole journey and the process to the Hall of Fame. We wanted to make sure we were making those memories alongside them. 

"I will say that partying until well after midnight, which is already much later than I am usually awake, and then having the kids wake you up asking for the screen time passcode on their iPad at like 6 a.m. made for not a lot of sleep and a lot of tired eyes on the flight back from Phoenix yesterday."

Check out photos of Joe Thomas NFL Honors, where he was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2023

Thomas will have a little more time to rest between now and Aug. 5, when the Hall's newest members will officially be enshrined with a ceremony in Canton.

He plans to spend some of that time responding to over 300 text messages he received on the night of the announcement. He took time to respond to a few of them that night, but the inbox continued to pile up with messages — some of them with more urgent needs than others.

"I spent like two and a half hours responding," Thomas said. "I was back over 300 and then I realized I was missing important things like, 'Here are your tickets for the Super Bowl. This is what time you have to be there for the shuttle tomorrow. Then I realized, 'OK, I really need to prioritize.'

"It has certainly been a little bit overwhelming emotionally at times."

That's how life can be when the world learns you're receiving a gold jacket, but Thomas already knew he was officially destined for Canton two weeks earlier.

He received that message from one of his former offensive tackle idols and soon-to-be fellow Hall of Famer, Walter Jones, who appeared at his doorstep in Wisconsin to deliver the news. 

The memory will live in Thomas' mind forever because while Jones was the one who officially delivered the message, Thomas’ kids were the ones who found out first. They saw Jones walk to the door before Thomas did while he was standing in his kitchen, and he realized what the knock was for when his son, Jack, yelled, "We made it, Dad! You made it!"

Thomas teared up when he recalled the moment.

"Anybody who is a parent, they understand — especially now that I'm retired and I spend so much time with them — for them to have emotion and excitement makes it so much more special for me because you try to tell them stuff all day long and they don't listen to anything," he said with a laugh. "You're like, 'Hey, we're going to go back to Cleveland, and they're going to announce Daddy in the Legends Club. That's really cool.' Then they're like, 'Yeah, whatever, Dad.' I'm like, 'All right, have to find something that is cool.' 'Hey, I'm on the Titans Games with The Rock. You know Maui? You guys love that [movie Moana].' They're like, 'Yeah, we don't care.' 

"Then all of a sudden, there was something they get excited about. I think that as a parent kind of made it a little bit overwhelming."

Those similar emotions nearly stopped Thomas mid-walk during his moment of recognition at the Merlin Olsen Luncheon last Friday, when they played the video of Thomas receiving "The Knock" and introduced him as a Hall of Famer to other gold-jacket members in the audience.

"I remember my knees just crumbling and going weak," he said. "I was just so overwhelmed with emotion in that moment that I lost dexterity and the ability to think of what I was trying to say. I probably didn't say anything that made any sense in that moment."

Among the Hall of Famers who Thomas will cherish speaking with throughout the weekend included Orlando Pace, another former left tackle who Thomas said "was one of my heroes growing up," and Peyton Manning, who was one of the hundreds of people who reached out to Thomas via text after the announcement.

Thomas had a question for the Hall of Famers in mind entering the celebration— he wanted to know who they picked to be their presenter for the ceremony. But the emotions and shock of standing in a room full of football legends got in the way.

"I was a little bit sidetracked," he said. "I was sort of in awe of a lot of these guys. I haven't made a decision, and I haven't really even spent enough time thinking about it to have narrowed it down. That is definitely on my to-do list."

Thomas said he doesn't have a list of who to ask yet. With a career that was spent blocking for 20 QBs and was mostly devoid of roster or coaching consistency — although that's ultimately what made part Thomas' legacy unique — it's hard to blame him. 

He'll certainly have plenty of people to choose from, though.

"For a guy who had nine offensive coordinators, two owners, six head coaches and like a revolving door of quarterbacks, I've had a lot of people who have touched my life and have been a huge part of this journey for me," he said. "So I think that makes it a little challenging to kind of narrow it down and figure out who is that one person who I want to make sure is presenting me and that I would be the most excited about having up on stage."

Thomas will have to make that decision in six months — but not before some much-needed rest.

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