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PostPosted: Fri May 21, 2010 9:52 am 
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Zach Thomas always did things the right way. He played with a passion. He tackled exactly the way you’re taught. His motor was always turned up to the highest level. He led by setting the right type of example. He cared like few others. And when it came time to retire, he did so in the classiest possible way, signing a one-day contract with the Dolphins to assure that his home of 12 football seasons remained his final home.

Could there really have been any other script than this one? A player that gave everything he had to one team ending his incredible career back with the Dolphins, applying the finishing touches with an emotional press conference surrounded by friends and family.

It was a one-day contract. In truth, this is a lifetime deal.

I’ve enjoyed watching so many players in my years covering this team. I can honestly say I have never enjoyed covering anybody more than I have Zach Thomas. He is what a football player should be, what a person should be. His retirement starts the clock for more deserving honors. You just know his name will be on the Sun Life Stadium wall before too long.

You also know that the Pro Football Hall of Fame is a realistic destination. Is he a lock? Not quite. But look at his career, look at the tackles and the big plays and the way he approached every down and it’s hard not to imagine Zach Thomas someday having a spot in Canton.

If there ever was a case of the little engine that could, this was it.

I remember Thomas coming out of Texas Tech, a fifth-round draft choice of the Dolphins. I remember looking at his college statistics and then wondering how he lasted until the fifth round. I mean, the guy was a tackling machine.

“He’s too short,” a scout for another team told me at the time. “Too small in general. This league will eat him up.”

Instead, it was Zach Thomas doing the devouring. You always knew when Zach Thomas made a tackle. There was a crunching sound you could hear all the way to the press box. But it wasn’t the tenacity of his tackles that impressed me the most, it was instead the relentless manner that he approached every play.

How many times did we see Zach Thomas run from one side of the field to the other to make a tackle? How many times did we see him catch a running back from behind? Covering a receiver he had no business covering? Intercepting a pass or forcing a fumble that seemed so unlikely?

“Aw,” he would say afterward in that slow, easy manner. “Just doing my job.”

So many plays come to mind during those dozen seasons with the Dolphins. But then, at the same time, they all seem to blend together. When did he do that somersault into the end zone? When was that fourth down stop against New England?

Too small? You’ve got to be kidding. This was a giant of a man who produced 1,038 tackles and made seven Pro Bowls.

Almost as much as the way he played, I enjoyed the off-the-field version of Zach Thomas. In the locker room after games, he was blatantly honest, always wearing his emotions with his words. He cared deeply about winning, wanted so much to help give this organization a Super Bowl. The total joy of a huge victory was only overshadowed by the massive emptiness of a tough defeat. Zach Thomas never shied away from a question, never failed to look you in the eye or shake your hand like he truly cared.

When his career with the Dolphins ended, he made a point to call me to offer thanks, just as he did the other writers and broadcasters who had seen most of his games. I remember sitting at my desk, hearing his voice on the phone, that unmistakable Texas twang.

“It’s been a great run,” he would say. “Just know that I gave it everything I had.”

Thomas played a season in Dallas and had a short stint with the Chiefs before realizing that the smart move after too many concussions was a dignified exit from the sport he had loved for so long. So he had his heart felt press conference on Thursday afternoon and he signed his one-day contract and, as Zach Thomas always does, he said all the right things and thanked all the right people.

He now officially belongs to this franchise and this franchise belongs to him. It is the perfect way to go out for a player so unique in his abilities, so devoted in his caring, so intense in his mission that he will rightfully have his own unique place in the history of this organization.

It is a sad day because we may never again see a player quite like Zach Thomas in a Dolphins uniform. But it is also a day to savor a remarkable career and an equally remarkable person and, at the same time, realize without hesitation, how fortunate we all were to have a front row seat. ... s-one-kind

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