Eleven years after playing his final National Football League game — Super Bowl XLVI — former Canton High School football and track star Devin Thomas is a model of good health.
Thomas, who moved from southeast Michigan to Tampa three years ago, owns his own personal-training business (Devin Thomas Fitness) and still dabbles in modeling, an industry he excelled in soon after stepping away from football.
“I feel good,” said Thomas, who starred as a receiver at Michigan State University before playing three seasons for the Washington Redskins and his final two for the New York Giants. “I have a few aches and pains now and then, but nothing major. I think I did a pretty good job of taking care of myself. I always prided myself on knowing how to take a hit as much as I could dish it out.
“And I learned the art of how to hit the ground (while being tackled), things of that nature.”
Although Thomas wasn’t a factor in the Giants’ 21-17 victory over the New England Patriots in SB XLVI, New York probably wouldn’t have been in the game without the ex-Chief’s heroics.
No doubting Thomas
The Giants and San Francisco 49ers were deadlocked at 17-17 in overtime of the NFC Championship Game two weeks earlier when Thomas recovered a fumbled punt at the San Francisco 21-yard line, setting up the game-winning field goal.
Thomas said the Giants were a confident team heading into the game against the Tom Brady-led Patriots.
“We had beaten them earlier that season, so we had a supreme confidence going into the game,” he said. “We were so prepared, we weren’t feeling a lot of jitters, to be honest. I will say I was a little nervous after we scored the go-ahead touchdown (with 57 seconds left) and had to watch Brady on the final drive, because we all know what he’s capable of. But our defense did the job.”
Born and raised in Ann Arbor before moving to Canton while in high school, Thomas said he has amazing memories of his days as a Chief. In addition to leading Canton to its first undefeated regular season in 2003, Thomas set the school record for the 100-meter dash with a blazing time of 10.4 seconds.
“It seems like just yesterday I was at Canton,” Thomas said. “So many great memories. Playing under the lights on Friday nights, the student cheering section doing the Florida State chant whenever we were on defense and it was third down for our opponents, the rivalry games against (Westland) John Glenn and Salem … a lot of good times.”
Thomas set the MSU single-season receptions record his junior (and final) season in East Lansing, before forgoing his senior season and declaring for the NFL Draft (he was selected in the second round by the Redskins). The record has since been broken, but he is still the owner of the record for most all-purpose yards in a season for the Spartans.
“I still reflect on what could have happened if I would have stuck around for my senior year at State,” Thomas said. “Having one more year with (head coach Mark) Dantonio, (quarterback) Brian Hoyer and Javon Ringer. Man, that could have been special.”
A fan of playing football-themed video games since he was young, Thomas won the 2008 NFL Madden Rookie Challenge, defeating Chicago’s Matt Forte in the championship game.
“I still remember when I was a kid, playing Madden and envisioning that one day I was going to be in one of those games,” Thomas recalled. “The first time I played the college football video game and I was in it. Wow, that was surreal.”
Video game champion
Thomas said he didn’t win any money for winning the Madden rookie tournament.
“I think I got a trophy and they gave me a couple games,” he said, chuckling. “The creator of EA Sports was there watching, so I was hoping he would at least give my video-game self a little extra speed or maybe give me the ability to make spectacular catches, but that wasn’t the case.”
Thomas laughed heartily.
Although he admittedly doesn’t watch live football these days — “I’ll check out the highlights on ESPN,” he said — Thomas still plays Madden and loves watching his 8-year-old son Judah do a pretty good impersonation of his dad on the gridiron.
“He plays Pop Warner football in Miami and he’s looking pretty good,” Thomas said. “He’s a receiver like me. His team won the Super Bowl and he was voted MVP. I’m a proud father.”
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