Sunday, April 6, 2008

"Thomason is glowing in the glare of the game" - by Shannon Ryan

Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA) - February 2, 2005

When Jeff Thomason attended Super Bowl Media Days in the past, he usually sat in the stands, bored, wondering if anyone would interview him.

As a tight end for the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowls XXXI and XXXII, occasionally a reporter or two would ask him a bizarre softball question.

"Which do you like better: Twinkies or Ding Dongs?" Thomason recalled.

As the newest member of the Eagles, Thomason was not lonely in the stands yesterday. He answered more than random questions about junk food, too.

About 1,000 media members conducted interviews at Alltel Stadium in preparation for the Eagles-Patriots meeting Sunday. Many of them chatted up Thomason .

From hard hat to helmet, Thomason has become the Super Bowl's feel-good story, one every media outlet wants to tell. And think, just a week ago, he was working in a trailer at a construction site.

After retiring from a 10-year NFL career two years ago, Thomason was brought back by the Eagles for one more game. It just so happens that his last hurrah is the Super Bowl. Thomason replaced tight end - and friend - Chad Lewis, who suffered a foot injury during a touchdown catch in the NFC championship game.

The scene yesterday was a glimpse into the whirlwind celebrity that has enveloped Thomason . For an hour, he sat at one of 14 podiums reserved for star players. Terrell Owens had one. So did Donovan McNabb.

Freddie Mitchell did not. Neither did David Akers.

But Thomason did.

At least 15 reporters surrounded him, sometimes as many as 30, during the hour-long session. News outlets from Shanghai to Denmark, Britain to Mexico, Orange County to South Jersey peppered him with questions.

Thomason , a happy-go-lucky sort by nature, beamed through it all.

"I don't belong up here," he said. "It's a dream come true. How many guys sitting at their desk get a phone call to come play in the Super Bowl?"

He was asked about two dozen times to detail the phone call he received from Lewis. By comparison, only twice was he asked about the Patriots' defense.

The Eagles' belief in his skills got him to the Super Bowl. His circumstances, however, placed him in the spotlight. He has appeared on the Today show, Good Morning America, and CBS's Early Show. An upcoming feature on 60 Minutes will air on him.

Queer Eye for the Straight Guy wanted to remake him. ESPN stopped at the construction site to involve his crew in a segment.

Hollywood movie producers, Thomason said, have approached him about developing his story into a film.

He knows how he would cast the part. No, not Brad Pitt.

"I'd like to play myself," he said.

It would be his third gig in a month.

After previously talking about how he had requested vacation time from Toll Brothers construction company, his boss called and let him off the hook.

"He said anyone who makes the NBA Finals, the World Series or the Super Bowl gets two weeks off," Thomason said with a laugh.

He was asked three times if he felt as if he had won the lottery. Each time, he said yes - with emphatic sincerity.

Media Day for Thomason also had its strange moments.

A Texas radio station gave him a golden microphone trophy, asked him to make a fake acceptance speech, then took the trophy back. A country music station asked him to shout out "Free Bird" in honor of an upcoming Lynyrd Skynyrd concert. He obliged and was asked to do it again - but with more feeling this time.

Thomason is a 35-year-old husband and father of three from Medford. He is a project manager in Chesterfield. Both towns are in Burlington County.

Lately, he has even been defining himself more as a triathlete than as a football player. He was asked about that as well. From his best time in an Olympic triathlon (2 hours, 50 minutes) to his next event ("Escape From Alcatraz" in June).

Thomason 's next - and last - big workout is Sunday.

Until Monday, he is a professional football player. After that, he answered repeatedly, it is definitely over.

While Thomason is taking his duties seriously, he realizes his story is the hot topic. That's fine by him.

"This is my 15 minutes," he said. When the game is over, "I go back to my desk, and I sit there and zone off and wonder what happened to me over the last two weeks."

Contact staff writer Shannon Ryan at 215-854-5503 or

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