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Joe Thomas thanks Browns, fans, Cleveland in heartfelt letter

Before saying goodbye, Joe Thomas would like to say thank you.

Thomas, who announced his retirement Wednesday​ after a Hall-of-Fame caliber career, penned a letter titled "Grateful" in Friday's edition of The Plain Dealer.

"My decision to retire was a difficult one, but I want you to know that today is a day of celebration," Thomas wrote.

"Today is a day for celebrating the eleven years I spent as a Cleveland Brown, for celebrating the eleven years of work and support from the entire Browns organization and for celebrating the eleven years of memories that I'll forever share with the fans of Cleveland."

Thomas, who played 11 seasons and was named to a team-record 10 Pro Bowls, thanked his family, the Browns organization, the Cleveland community and fans for their support over the past decade.

Thomas was constant despite years of highs and lows in Cleveland, playing a record 10,363 consecutive snaps before suffering a season-ending triceps injury in October. Drafted third-overall in 2007, Thomas — who famously spent draft day fishing with his father — has endeared himself to fans both on and off the field.

"When I was drafted by the Browns, I was on Lake Michigan, fishing with my father. I caught a brown trout that day; holding a browns trout in one hand and receiving a call from the Browns on the cellphone in my other," he wrote. "I didn't think much of it then, but I don't know if there could be a better beginning to my incredible 11 years here in Cleveland.

"I remember walking into the Browns facility for the first time. To see the pictures of Jim Brown, Otto Graham, Ozzie Newsome, Lou Groza, Paul Warfield, Leroy Kelly hanging on the walls filled me with excitement and pride. My pride and excitement to be a Cleveland Brown never wavered, no matter what."

Thomas leaves behind an unmatched legacy as a player and larger-than-life member of the community, a force for good whether it was his work with the USO of Northern Ohio, the Greater Cleveland Food Bank or the Providence House.  

Thomas, who announced his decision on his podcast, the ThomaHawk Show, said his mind was willing to play another season, but his body simply couldn’t do it anymore. The Browns will hold a news conference to officially honor Thomas Monday afternoon.

"I knew from that very first day that I wanted to dedicate my career to making the Browns organization and all the legends to wear brown and orange before me proud. I wanted to make the Dawg Pound proud, the Browns Backers proud, all the great fans here in Cleveland proud," he wrote.

"I hope I did that, and I hope you know that today, I retire proud to have always been, and always be, a Cleveland Brown. "

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