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Joe Thomas - Hall of Fame 2023

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Joe Thomas 'wouldn't change anything' about his path to Canton

For Thomas, a “thank you” to fans and former teammates holds more significance than the normal message of gratitude often delivered by Hall of Famers


It's hard for Hall of Famers to tell the tale about their path to glory without thanking the people who helped them, and Joe Thomas' reaction to his Hall of Fame announcement Thursday night was no different.

But Thomas' reasoning for why he wanted to thank Browns fans, teammates and everyone else who helped push him to Canton holds much greater significance. His gratitude felt stronger than a simple "thank you" because that support might've meant more to Thomas than any of the other 368 Hall of Famers that came before him.

"I think as a Cleveland Brown and being the first Brown to be inducted since the team came back, it's really special for me because that franchise has endured some really tough times," Thomas said in his post-announcement press conference in Phoenix. "But those fans are so loyal and passionate, and they still show up."

That was how, for 10,363 consecutive snaps, Thomas never quit on Cleveland. 

The number, believed to be the longest snap streak by any player in NFL history, already held a special place in Browns franchise history. Now that Thomas is a first-ballot Hall of Famer — just the seventh offensive tackle in NFL history to hold the distinction — the number deserves to be celebrated even more.

And it will be on Aug. 5, the day Thomas' career is celebrated with a bronze bust unveiling in Canton.

For Thomas, though, the streak and all the marvelous achievements that led to him receiving a knock on the door from Walter Jones, the last first-ballot offensive tackle to be enshrined, would never have been possible without the constant fuel he received from fans who believed in him and the teammates who relied on him to be there every game — no, every snap.

He never let them down.

"You just keep working on things one day at a time, and a lot of times, it's those people around you that are the ones who are motivating you," Thomas said. "It's easy, if you're just doing it for yourself, to get into the doldrums, especially if you're losing like we seem to do a little bit in Cleveland.

"But you've got guys around you that you know are counting on you. They're the brothers that pull you through those dark, tough times, and in the end, you look back and you're like, 'Wow, there were a lot of things that happened over my 11 years in the NFL — not always good, but the journey tells the story of my career, and I wouldn't change anything."

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

This isn't the end of the book for Thomas, who will still be counted on by the franchise and fanbase for, well, forever. 

There's a new job that comes with being a Hall of Famer. It's not only about representing the team, but always giving the franchise something to cheer for. Those tasks should be easy for Thomas. 

He's been doing them since his career began in Cleveland in 2007, and he didn't stop when he retired in 2018. When his fellow Hall of Fame class member DeMarcus Ware spoke Thursday night about that role, Thomas agreed.

"I think it's great for all of Browns nation to have me being inducted this season because like DeMarcus was just talking about, (I can be) a vessel for their fandom," he said.

Now, he can do so while wearing a gold jacket.

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