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Pierre Thomas: "I was always the underdog"

Kristian Garic
July 11, 2018 - 2:07 pm
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In the 2007 NFL draft, the Saints drafted a running back in the fourth round out of Ohio State.  Antonio Pittman was the 107th selection that year.  If you Google the 2007 NFL draft, you can find this information.  If you dig a little further on that very same Google search, you find Pierre Thomas as a "notable" undrafted free agent that came out of that class.  2007 was also the same year the Minnesota Vikings drafted Adrian Peterson 7th overall.  22 running backs heard their name called on draft weekend that year.  Pierre Thomas wasn't one of them.  Marshawn Lynch and Adrian Peterson were the cream of the 2007 draft class when it comes to ball carriers. 

Humor me for a bit.  Do any of these names ring a bell: Kolby Smith, Dwayne Right, Oren O'Neal, and Tony Hunt?  They were all drafted ahead of Pierre Thomas in that year.  If you're asking who they are, I'm with you.  That didn't stop Pierre Thomas from a burning desire to make the Saints roster. 

"It was an unbelievable journey.  It showed me that hard work really does pay off," Thomas said when he joined Bobby Hebert and me on Sports Talk. Thomas had a couple of different options as an undrafted free agent in 2007.  The New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns, and Minnesota Vikings along with the Saints were all courting him..  He chose New Orleans; and it was an odd choice at the time, considering the Saints had Reggie Bush, Aaron Stecker and just spent a fourth round draft pick on Pittman.

"I picked New Orleans I had an inside guy: Greg McMahon (former special teams coach of the Saints).  Greg knew me since high school and told the Saints to give me a shot." 

Thomas admits that going undrafted was a bit frustrating, but it was also a driving force in his determination to make the Saints roster.

"It gave me the fire, and desire.  Whatever team allows me to come try out, I'm not only going to knock on the door, I'm going to break the door down; and I'm going to get a spot," Thomas added. 

He got a spot aright! Thomas became the first player in the history of the franchise to score a touchdown in a Super Bowl.  He also lead NFL running backs in receptions in 2013. Thomas bet on himself! He was so confident in his ability that he didn't leave things back in his hometown of Chicago.  He brought everything he owned to New Orleans in the 2007 off-season. 

"I knew that I wanted to make the team.  I was going for broke," he said.  

P.T. went on to beat out the fourth round draft pick Antonio Pittman.  After an impressive preseason, the Saints kept the undrafted Thomas and released Pittman. Unwittingly, it was Pittman who helped Thomas make the Saints roster in a roundabout way. The two were room mates during training camp.  Pittman was struggling to learn the expansive offensive playbook.  Then running backs coach George Henshaw asked Thomas to help Pittman with the playbook back at their hotel room.  

Normally a lot of players wouldn't want to do that if they're in direct competition with that player.

"That's not my style.  I said 'okay,'" Thomas explained. He already was picking up the offense quickly so he was willing to help his fellow rookie teammate. "What I learned was that I was teaching myself more and faster by helping him. It made it a lot easier for me because I knew I wasn't going to make mistakes because I'm teaching him," Thomas added. 

So in essence Antonio Pittman had a huge hand in Pierre Thomas making the Saints roster as an un-drafted rookie free agent. The "P.T Bruiser" became a fan favorite in New Orleans, with his uncanny ability to run the screen play so effectively.  In addition to being the first Saints player to score a touchdown in the Super Bowl, he picked up a critical first down that allowed Garrett Hartley to kick the Saints past the Vikings in the NFC Championship in 2009.  

In eight NFL seasons, Thomas put up some pretty strong numbers.  He rushed for 3,809 yards on 833 attempts and scored 28 touchdowns while averaging 4.6 yards per carry. He wasn't just a runner, however.  Thomas doubled as a threat in the passing game out of the backfield for the Saints, amassing 2,608 yards receiving on 327 receptions and scored 12 touchdowns.  Not bad career totals for a guy who was passed over two hundred and fifty five times in the 2007 NFL draft. 

Of the undrafted players in Saints history he's clearly one of if not the best to ever put on a Saints uniform.  Thomas went from undrafted to a Saints Hall of Famer! Pretty strong! 

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