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A Miami Dolphins ode to Zach Thomas done right

My first conversation with Zach Thomas happened in the summer of 1996, days after Jimmy Johnson recognized remarkable ability in a pretty unremarkable looking player. Johnson graded Thomas in his first preseason game and promptly cut veteran Jack Del Rio because the coach simply knew Thomas was the Miami Dolphins future at middle linebacker.

That move prompted my initial 20 minute talk with the rookie. When it was over I still had no clue whether Thomas would become a great player or not, whether he'd reward Johnson's confidence or not. I had no clue if Thomas would become a  starter or a special teamer.

But I realized Thomas was a special guy.

During that first talk, Thomas told me he was still getting used to South Florida and that he had finally found a barber he liked. "I got to talking with the guy and told him I'm a football player," Thomas said. "He asked me what high school I played for."

Thomas then made a couple of other jokes about "having no neck," that made me laugh and then we got serious and I asked what his days were like.

He basically recounted how he was showing up at the training facility around 6 a.m. and leaving around 9 or 10 p.m. "Football is a job for me now," he said, "and if it takes me coming to work earlier and leaving later to be a success, that's what I'm going to do every day of my career."

Special.

Special work ethic. Special personality. Special view of reality.Zach1

Thomas was just being himself. But eventually he would be inexorably tied to NFL excellence for the next 14 years.

Despite a promising future, it wasn't until the regular-season opener in 1996 that Thomas finally believed he had arrived.

"We were singing the national anthem," Thomas said. "It was the best feeling in the world. I remember it like it was yesterday, playing the Patriots, Bill Parcells was on the other sidelines and it was a good win. Just knowing that I made it, it’s all kind of like a fog to me now, but I enjoyed the whole ride and what is special to me is really the relationships that I made and like I said and I know that I am repetitive but, to play a game and get paid for it I was grateful."

Thomas knew within himself he had arrived during the national anthem. He announced that arrival to everyone else by knocking wide receiver Shawn Jefferson out cold on a bone-jarring hit that reverberates through time in franchise history.

"I think I gave a concussion that day, and I am not trying to brag, because I got my own, but I gave some too," Thomas said, the old competitor peeking through his business suit. "I am not trying to boast over that, because you never like to see anyone hurt and you never try to hurt anybody, but I felt like that was making a statement saying, ‘Hey here is 54.' "

Fifty-four won't necessarily be retired by the Dolphins. Doesn't matter. We don't need a number to go away for the exploits of the player who wore the digits to live on.

I'll remember that hit on Jefferson. And that goal-line stop of Jerome Bettis. And the day he stole the signals from the New England Patriots and caused Tom Brady to complain.

I'll also remember the Zachisms.

He would talk of his defensive unit "getting rattled," on certain downs during certain games. He would hate to lose because losing could, "contaminate your mind." He would get cold sores on his lips because he worried so much about upcoming games.

And there were the eccentricities, too.

He got in the habit of taking tapes home before other Miami players did. He bought a Hyperbaric chamber and slept in it because he swore it made him recover faster. He wore magnets because he was told they drew blood to certain parts of the body and that made that part heal faster. He went on diets that were matched to his particular blood type.

It was all done to get an edge, to be the best he could be.

"I don’t think that I ever viewed myself as having God-given ability, but I knew I would get that edge somehow," Thomas said. "I have seen a lot of talent come in to this team and out real fast because maybe of work ethic or being lazy -- things like that. It doesn’t really matter, talent if you are on the field, even if you run a 4.2 forty, if you can’t read or recognize a play, or if you are a receiver and can’t catch the ball, it’s a whole different game on that field.

"And that is the one thing that, when I was on that field, I felt fast. When I got out there on the forty sprints, man, the D-lineman were out-running me most of them were. At the combine, I mean it was, I just knew that wasn’t the game of football. The combine, I didn’t even touch the opening height on the vertical jump. There were so many things that upset me because of all the hard work that I put in at college, but those don’t really measure up to what you can do on the field. It has nothing to do with it. But that is why I feel like they always put me as an overachiever.

"But when I was on the field, I didn’t feel it, I felt confident on the field. I might have been insecure for sure during the week, but on game day I was confident.”

Thomas often made fun of his own speech pattern. He said it got slower over the years because of all the hits to the head he endured.

Nonsense.

This guy was sly as well as wise. When he negotiated his first big contract -- a five-year, $22.5 million deal that included a $4.5 million signing bonus and made him the highest-paid Miami player ahead of Dan Marino -- Thomas told me he made sure the deal wasn't backloaded.

Tim Bowens had signed a backloaded deal and was at that time in danger of not collecting that last big year of pay because he was injured and his play had declined. Thomas made sure his deal paid well up front as well as at its end.

And Thomas delivered at both those ends. He made his first Pro Bowl in 1999 and his last in 2006.

Zach2 "I remember when Zach first showed up as a rookie, I thought he and Larry Izzo would make pretty good special teams players," Dan Marino said. "I was right about Larry, but wrong about Zach. He wound up being much beter than that. He used his determination, grit, and love for the game to become one of the best players on our team.

"He was a great teammate. He never took a play off, not even at practice. and his enthusiasm for the sport was contagious throughout the locker room. I'm glad I got a chance to play with him, and I'm happy that he's able to retire as a member of the team he cared so much about."

Thomas kidded that whenever he intercepted a Marino pass in practice, he would call friends to tell him about that thrill. Typical Zach.

In his final minutes as a Miami Dolphins before retiring Thursday, Thomas thanked his family, his coaches, former teammates, trainers, equipment manager Tony Egues, and current and former club media relations people. He also thanked the media.

But mostly Thomas thanked you, the fans, for cheering him on, for wearing his jersey, for being in his corner.

"As for the fans, it has been a great ride," Thomas said. "We have had our ups and downs, but I really feel like you have showed unconditional love for me for the whole time I was here. I am sorry we couldn’t bring you a Super Bowl ring.

"Now that I am fan like you guys, I know that I am excited -- not just because they let me come here and retire, but I know they are on the right track and it is a process and I like what they are doing. I feel like they are going to bring us a Super Bowl ring. Even if I am not involved with the team, I will be a fan and I will be celebrating with these guys. I'd like to thank you for all of your loyalty over the years to me. If I had a bad game or a good game, you always had my back. So I want to thank everyone for coming out today. I appreciate you and go Dolphins." 

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Zach Thomas personifies class and work ethic, a true legend in Miami Dolphin lore.

Hall of Famer


one of the greatest dolphins of all time. and that is all there is to it.

I remember that Jefferson hit. It was awesome. Great story mando.

You can write when you put your mind to it Mando. Thanks for the memories.

THE SMALLEST DOLPHIN WITH THE BIGGEST HEART.


THE BEST MOVE THEY MADE SINCE THEY WERE HERE.

Mando, best thing you've written in a long time. Of course, it's nice when the Dolphins give you something to work with instead of all the mundane stuff that's been going on lately.

Great job by them, great job by Zach, great article all around.

Great article Armando!

Well, I read Craig Cotte's article earlier and I read the inspiration of Zach at the Sunsentinel and you kicked their butts Armandito!

Thanks for taking me back to the JJ years and the glory days of that very good defense. Zach Thomas deserves all this love he's getting.

Awesome article!

Just Thanx Zach.
A hero, a great player.
A special human being

Now this is writing. Zach: Dolphin4Life!!! Grats brother you were the best.

Mando--as I told you below---you did a WONDERFUL job on Zas's show tonite conveying the emotion and homor of Zach's day....and you've built upon that here.

THANKS!

btw--can anyone cite or provide a link for video of Thomas stoning Jer. Bettis at JRS a few yrs back??

Thanks Armando - I liked Zach a lot and have followed him since his draft as a huge fan. Today's conference was really special. I do feel, overall, the dolphins did him wrong in many ways: from not capitalizing on his time here, to how they handled him towards the end of his career. Zach --> you will be dearly missed. Thanks for everything!

Wow!

What a feel good story.

Zach is the personification of a true football warrior!

The most intriguing soundbite I got from Zach's "speech" was:

"Even if I am not involved with the team,...."

Could It be a Freudian slip? I'm hoping so.

Call it a pipe dream, call it whatever you want. I know Zach Thomas could teach these young guys how to study, prepare for and play the game of football.

Coach Thomas has a nice ring too it.

Thanks, Zach. God bless you, Brother.

Thanks Zach. Go Dolphins!

WOW! Great writing Mando! To be honest, I was holding back tears as I read this.. Great video too.. Thanks for always bringing it on Sundays Zach! Go Dolphins!!

Guys I'll be totally, if painfully, honest. I used to take Zach Thomas as a given, a great player a great team player a great person, but I always seemed to admire Jason Taylor more. Now its the exact opposite, watching over ZT#54 old tapes, reading through old press conferences and listening to him today I have to say he is one of my favourite (now retired) players all time! And I lost any admiration I had for JT when he signed for the Jets. Now I know its a business but had he waited for the draft and then sign, OK i can live with that, but lets be honest he wants a ring and doesnt trus the DOLPHINS will be able to get it for him, so now all I want is that whenever he walks into Sun Life Stadium he gets booed and I cant wait for Incognito, Long or Carey to get him on his back, he is not going to touch a single offensive playmaker in aqua and orange this year, he is washed up, so JT I hope you watched what the Fins did for Zach and I hope you know that they will NEVER do it for you. Because from know on, in my books, JT stands for jets traitor.

Zach--- I thought Zach's spirit was captured when he said in the press conference that he was sorry that he didn't get the dolphins a super bowl ring! Part if me still wishes he could be on this team! G-d speed Zach!

HIRE ZACH AS COACH AND WATCH THE SUPER BOWL SPIRITS ALIGN!!!!!

Great player, even better guy. The kind of man I wish I could be. If there is one guy ( besides Marino ) who deserves a that elusive SB ring, it's Zach Thomas. Hopefully one day he can get it as a coach with the Phins. How awesome would that be ?

Zach,

Thanks for the effort and all the heart you played with. I remember that hit in the youtube video you had on Coles in that Jets game. I got goose bump. You brought it every week and gave everything you had. Thanks bro. Good luck in the future and with the baby and the family.

Favorite phin of all time!

Great article Mando. Thank you.

Zach is the man.Great article Armando.I hope the Dolphins never offer Jason Taylor the same thing.Go retire as a Jet.

thanks Mando. great tribute blog.

Nice article.

Zach was the man!
HOF needs Zach!
Phins need a Coach Thomas!

Zach always made me proud to be a dolfan!

Thank you Zach for all the great, countless memories. You are one of the greatest Dolphins in my heart. Good luck.

Zach Thomas HOF

I have three jerseys. Two 13s and one 54, thanks Zach for all the great years, it's been a pleasure watching you give your heart and soul, giving everything you had on every snap.

A fitting tribute to a fine player. Another acquisition that did not fit the mold, but had the heart and instincts to make his presence known, both on and off the field. And a class gentleman at that.
Seems over the years, Miami had quite a few selfless players that were not necessarily typical household names, nationally, but well known in the community and on the field. (Members of the No-Name Defense comes to mind, or the Killer Bees, to name a few). I'm glad Zach finally got his due.

I remember having to go to sports bars on Sunday morning out here on in Cali to watch games before NFL Ticket. As is usually the case its crowded with fans from every team. When all the bantering started, you know the Dolphins suck Marino sucks? It always seemed they always said of Zach Thomas, "I'd take that dude on my team"! He played all out, hurt and you never worried about him ending up on the police blotter.

Phin Pride! Thanks ZT!

Go Phins!

Mando what do you think the chances are of the Dolphins hiring Thomas as a coach? He seems like he would be the absolute perfect fit as a LBs coach. His mind was his greatest asset as a player, and maybe some of that can be relayed to current and future players. Regardless of scheme and type of defense, Zach Thomas knows how to play the position like few others. I'm jumping on the Coach Thomas bandwagon for sure.

Well, today has proved yet again that I still have a genuine love for this team.
I thought I was over being emotional about this damn team... ain't true, I got all "Misty" today and could not do a damn thing about it but let it happen. Only two other times it did. The day Shula retired and the day I realized the game and a SB had passed Dan by.
So, as a life blood Dolphins fan I wish "The Zack" all of my profound gratitude. And thank him for always giving me that first player I would look for on the field on game day before kickoff. I am very very proud and feel very fortunate to be a fan of the same team as Zack Thomas, and it reminds me of how lucky I feel to have been around for so many great Dolphins player like him. I truly hope to look to the ring of honor and see his name there, next to those he is equal to and perhaps better then in every way.

Now that I have said what I wanted about the great Miami Dolphin "Zack Thomas"... I wish to "Opine" about his brother in law who's name I refused to include on the same post or even Blog as a Great Dolphins such as Zack. Just remember what you saw here today... Brother in Law.... Just remember that ANY THING, including a year in Dallas or nearly ANYWHERE else is considered fair and understandable. But where you chose to go has and will forever stain your image with me, a fan since my parents made me one in '66 the year the team was founded. I will not speak for nor insight others to follow, but the day YOU retire, and should YOU ever occupy a spot in the Ring, I will ALWAYS see a streak of Nasty Green though your name & number. I just wonder if the silence this Management staff clings to hides things about you and your choices that perhaps they are smart to leave unsaid? I wonder how much their silence is protecting what is left of your image & reputation here?... I really don't care... See, I am one of those rare INDIVIDUALS who makes up their own mind and follows their own heart. And my heart say's there is a great difference between YOU and Zack Thomas. I WILL ALWAYS KNOW IT.... even if no one else does. I truly hope the images of today made you feel every bit the "Dolphins impostor" you are.

Zach and A.J YEEEEAAAAA.OK B.COX was good..Still think he's ok.

Derek,DON'T TALK FOR ZACH.AZZZZZHOLE

Derek:

Get over it dude.

JT fell victim to egos and business.

Parcells doesn't like to be blown off.
- So HE showed Taylor his 'cold heartless side' once they refused his initial offer.

Agents always try to to make money for themselves. (...and, when possible, for their Clients.)
So when the Dolphins dragged their feet...
- THE AGENT Orchestrated the entire Jets thing to guarantee some money for 2010. He prayed on Taylor's emotions by repeating (over and over again) how wonderful the Jets thought that the 36 year old was.

Rex Ryan believes he might gain info about the Dolphins.
- So He asked his GM and Team Owner express their LOVE
for an older player.

JT just wished to feel wanted
- So HE Signed.


As a Fan, I think Taylor could have helped the Dolphins this year.

But, try to keep in mind that the last thing ANY of those people above care about ...are Fans.
.
.


I blame Gary!For telling the truth

Thank you Zach!

To take the package God gave you and through grit and determination become one of the greatest MLBs of all time teaches us what we can become if we follow your example.

I will follow my brother!

Good luck in whatever you do.

thanks zach,now shut your mouth .

the greatest dolphin is marino and 1972 team not Zach .

My favorite Dolphin of all time, even named my son after him!

Here,Here marino...Now on to O.T.A's

NYSCOTT,

I saw your post from the last blog and you made some real good points. I will do my partt and honor Zach for what he did for the team. He was a great Dolphin.

We will save the HOF/Jersey Retirement discussion for when the time is more approriate.

Congrats Zach
GO Fins

Armando,

Good article

I love this player. I'm about a year or 2 younger than Zach so as much as I admired Dan, it was done through a child's eyes for the most part. Zach was the superstar that I grew up with, was really old enough to appreciate completely. I teared as I read these articles in the herald today. It's a coming of age, not only for Zach but in a lot of ways for myself.

Godspeed Zach - you will never be forgotten.


I believe - Does anyone else in here believe?

And what Martin said was true. people would talk all kinds of smack about your team but nobody would ever talk smack about Zach.

Thanks for the flashback in time with Zach, 'Mando. I've been watching the Dolphins since '70, and I can say with confidence that Zach was the best linebacker to ever wear a Dolphins uniform. He never gave up on a play. He had great instincts.

Big Dave
phinfever

Good Job Armando
Informative, Clever & Cunning
Thanks For The Compliments Using Much of My Material From Yesterday
Like The Training, Inordinate Amounts of Film Study and of course the only one to mention the Hyperbaric Chamber and Personal Chef was Home
LOL
U Said
Maybe U Would Be Using Some Of Our Material In Next Article
Esp liked The looking across at Bill Parcells & Knocking Patriots WR Jefferson Out

Does anyone else think Bill Parcells
Should Not use the initials BP anymore?

The negative connotation with the initials BP
is now far to overwhelming

Home,

I really don't read your post that much because your style of writing just doesn't suite me. Thats not a knock on you. Thats just how I feel.

Then an imposter began to post under your name and eveyone piled on. I was still disintrested but felt empathy because the sight needs to do a better job with the security.

Now, I have to say that you need to take your doom and gloom to the approriate website. I did some reseach for you and this blog site may be better suited to your taste.
www.whogivesaF,com
check it out

NostraHomeUs
R U saying One Million Gals of Toxic Red Blood Oil Flowing Into some of the Best Shellfish Beds & Pristine Waters on the Planet EVERY DAY

With 10 MORE WEEKS TO GO

That Is 70 MORE MILLION GALLONS OF TOXIC RED OIL
+ APROX 30 MILLION GALLONS ALREADY IN THE GULF

Thats 100 MILLION GALLONS OF TOXIC RED OIL IN THE OCEAN

Now I See Your Concern NostraHomeUs!

The Told Us On Mainstream Media & Fox News
This would not be as big as the Drunken Valdez Spill (and the sheeple said Uh Hu, Uh Hu)

Now 900% Bigger!

Thanks Kris
will chech it out
However Not Doom & Gloom, Kris

psss, come here
I`ll whisper to U

The Toxic Oil Spill is Real
and will Cripple Miami Dolphin Country +
At least 5 Other States, The Gulf & Atlantic Ocean
Soon Will Pollute My Neighborhood &
Zach Thomas`s New Beachfront Home

Do U want Zach Thomas`s 4 1/2 yr old child
Playing in tar balls

By the way Kris
The Rainbows U R Chasing
R really Chembows

Im not gonna say zack was the greatest dolfin cuz marino was but he and JT are tied for second greatest dolphin, but than again the edge goes to zack cuz JT went to the jets not im hating on him cuz he basically had no choice cuz no other team was knocking on the door for him and well miami didnt really care either way but zack is number two of all dolfins. Thanx for the memories zack and enjoy ur retirement

Home,

I know its real, anyone with common sense knows its real. I watch the news to get, well...THE NEWS.

I come here for football, football opinions, and even to be insulted by football know-it-alls.

All of those (even the latter) are socially acceptable on thi site.

Your words are socially exceptable too. Just on the appropriate blog.

How sill would i look if I came to a football blog talking about shrimp farming and how many differnt types of shrimp there are.

Think about it.

Good one kris.

Home all BS aside your ruining this blog.

Thanks Beerndrums.

Now its "time to make the doughnuts"

Kris
U R funny

U did not notice the the
BP(British Petroleum)&
BP(Bill Parcells )

Thing
See BP is Our Miami Dolphin God

Hate to see his name all, well, Oiled Up

and Headlines here in South Florida have recently been about the great purchase of a
Hilsboro Mile Beach Front Home

The Toxic Oil may reach Zach`s Home by next week

and Kris
For The Love Of God, Man

Be Concerned
Be Very Concerned

Go Dolphins!

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