Commentary

Cornerback Emmitt Thomas: In the words of...

Originally Published: August 1, 2008
By Chris Conetzkey

Emmitt ThomasLou Witt/Getty ImagesEmmitt Thomas was voted into the Hall of Fame 30 years after he finished his career with 58 interceptions, still the fourth-most by a pure cornerback.

Teammate Bobby Bell
Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Fame linebacker Bobby Bell says his quiet teammate displayed a knack for coaching even while Thomas was still a player:

"At the time he was with the Chiefs, I could see that he might be a coach. He was that way with a lot of the young players coming in. If they do something wrong, he would just tell them, 'Hey, you can't do that,' and he would try to show them how to do it. I could see that back then -- he was kind of like a father.

The Hall's Monitor

Darrell Green Thomas was Darrell Green's position coach with the Washington Redskins for eight years. The two built a special relationship, and Green credited Thomas' coaching style as one of the reasons he made the Hall of Fame. Story
"At first he didn't talk that much, but he knew so much about the game that he could teach other players when he had something to say. He is good with the players. He is good with people, you know. And when you sit down and talk to him, you have to listen to him because what he is saying is true.

"I call him at home every once in a while. A lot of times it is really difficult, he don't like to talk on the phone. In order to talk to him, you might have to call him three or four times. The thing is, though, he has been like that for the last 40 years."

Opponent Lance Alworth
Alworth, who had more than 10,000 yards receiving in his Hall of Fame career for the San Diego Chargers, on how Thomas' techniques made him a hard corner to play against:

"One of the things when guys are really good, they are also smart. He played really smart. He was awfully good, he was really smart, so you know he was an outstanding player.

"Kansas City always had a very good defense, and they played it well. And he was part of that. So it was a difficult thing when we went against him because we had to make sure that we were ready both physically and mentally to play him."

Emmitt Thomas
Thomas on what keeps him motivated each day and whether a head coaching job is in his future:

[+] EnlargeBobby Bell and Willie Lanier
Rod Hanna/Getty ImagesLinebackers Bobby Bell, right, and Willie Lanier teamed with Emmitt Thomas to win Super Bowl IV with the Kansas City Chiefs.
"I like the competition. I like being around the young people that keep you young. I like the week-to-week assessment of what you have done. Most people in the business world, they have to wait for assessments; in college, you have to wait to semester, and if you are a businessman you have to wait 'til quarter. We get ours, week by week.

"You know what? When I used to sit and talk to my grandfather, he would say you have to be realistic, you have to set goals, try to achieve them, but then you have to have a drop-off point to that. If you don't reach the goal, the next step that you take, you got to be happy with it and make yourself happy. I think I'm a man of 65 years old, I've been in the league for 29 to 30 years, I don't think it will ever happen for me as a head coach. But to just still be out there working and being around young people and getting that high on Sundays is very satisfying for me.

"The only thing that could make it better is if we could get to the Super Bowl one more time."

Willie Lanier
Chiefs Hall of Fame linebacker Willie Lanier spent some time at a recent golf tournament sharing memories with Emmitt Thomas and fellow Chiefs Hall of Famer Bobby Bell:

"He and I were at a golf tournament last week, and we sat up 'til about 1:15 [a.m.] outside of a hotel up in Washington, D.C.

"We just reflected and spent a lot of time talking about a lot of the history and where things were. It is such a joy for a boy born in Angleton, Texas, who attended Bishop College, happened to be an African-American, and to have a pro football career as lengthy as it was, a coaching career after that as lengthy as it was, and now getting inducted into the Hall of Fame -- no one could have predicted it. Except he was the one that went and did it."