Joe Thomas is my idol.
It feels weird to say that about someone that's younger than you, but it's true.
Maybe it isn't even Thomas the person, but his accomplishment and what it stands for that amazes.
For those who haven't heard, the 32-year-old Thomas played his 10,000th consecutive snap at left tackle for the Cleveland Browns on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens. He's never missed one in his 11-year career in the NFL.
It's ridiculous. It's preposterous. It's awe-inspiring.
I've been asked about Thomas and his streak many times over the past couple of years and I always just sort of shake my head and tell the person asking me the question that it is really hard to put into words how impressive it is. I can give it a try, though.
Playing in the NFL, like I was blessed to do for seven seasons, is an awesome job and a dream come true for pretty much every player in the league. But that's not the same thing as saying it's easy.
It's a mental and physical grind unlike anything else I have endured in my life, and I would guess most current players would say the same. That's not a complaint or a request for pity. It's tough, but it's worth it.
Knowing what those marathon seasons are like, with pretty much no off-days and living in constant pain for five-plus months, I've always had great admiration for those guys that were able to do it week-in and week-out year after year.
Most fans look up to the skill guys like Tom Brady or Odell Beckham Jr. or whomever. I get it. Randall Cunningham was my No. 1 guy growing up as an Eagles fan.
That said, once I was part of the league and really saw what it was all about, I immediately had tremendous respect for any guy that teed it up every single Sunday in the trenches for ten years or more. Those were the guys I looked up to. Still do.
Jon Runyan, Alan Faneca and Bruce Matthews are just a few of the many names that come to mind, along with a former teammate of mine, London Fletcher, who started 240 straight games at middle linebacker.
Let's start with the obvious, which is that Thomas, Fletcher and guys like them are extremely fortunate that they never suffered the kind of devastating injury ends careers. That's just good luck given the amount of those sorts of injuries that happen every Sunday and the number of opportunities in which it could have occurred.
But that aside, it's the mental and physical toughness that it takes to play with all kinds of "minor" injuries that blows me away.
Thomas has played through multiple sprained MCL ligaments, two high ankle sprains, a grade two LCL strain and countless other issues that aren't significant enough to be named, but are certainly noticeable when you have to punch a 300-pound man in the chest with a dislocated finger or two.
To put it in perspective, many people would take at least a little time off from their desk job with any of those ailments I named. Yet Thomas went into the gladiator's arena and sparred with some of the most gifted athletes in the world. And still came out playing well, even though he had the built-in excuse of playing with an injury like that. It's remarkable.
Plus, it's not like he's been doing this for the Patriots. Thomas' entire streak has come with the lowly Browns, which means a lot of losing, not a lot of hope and taking the field to do battle knowing the odds of reaping the rewards of a victory weren't high.
It's so darn impressive.
I played through some injuries like a sprained MCL or a broken hand or a herniated disc in my back, but for a much shorter length of time than Thomas, which allows me to appreciate just how impressive his accomplishment is. It's why I can't even fathom doing what he just did.
And maybe the craziest part is that it doesn't seem like there's any end in sight.