Earl Thomas is preparing for his 10th NFL season, but he's new to Baltimore.
Here are five things to know about the six-time Pro Bowler, one of the best defensive players of his era:
Thomas' mother overcame a dire medical diagnosis prior to his birth
Earl Thomas' mother, Debbie, refers to Thomas as her "miracle son." She was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 1987 and told she could no longer have children. But after seeing specialists and considering her options, Mrs. Thomas underwent more tests and the cancer was no longer detected. A year later, she was pregnant with her oldest son, Earl Thomas III. She later gave birth to Thomas' brother, Seth.
"My mom always reminded me I was a miracle child," Thomas says on his official website.
His family's home was destroyed by Hurricane Rita
Hurricane Rita, the fourth most-intense Atlantic hurricane ever recorded, passed through Thomas' hometown of Orange, Tx. in September of 2005. Thomas' family evacuated, knowing things would be bad. But the damage was worse than expected. The Thomas family home was destroyed, forcing them into a Super 8 hotel along with his grandparents who had a room down the hall. Eventually, the family moved into a mobile home, but after being drafted by the Seattle Seahawks, Thomas helped his parents buy a new home.
He has deep ties to his hometown
Thomas' grandfather, Earl Thomas Sr., built and served as the pastor at Sixth Street Community Church in Orange. The church's motto was, "This is a church where everybody is somebody." Thomas' parents still live in Orange which has a population of fewer than 20,000. Earl was a four-sport star at West Orange-Stark High School, where he played football, basketball, baseball, and ran track. As a result of his athletic prowess, the town even honored him with an "Earl Thomas Day" in 2007. When Thomas was picked 14th in the 2010 draft by the Seahawks, he wasn't in New York watching the draft from Radio City Music Hall like most first-round picks. He was at his grandfather's church in Orange, surrounded by hundreds of friends and family. Every summer, Thomas holds a free camp for kids in Orange that keeps getting bigger. In 2017, it attracted more than 700 campers. Thomas has invited some of his former Seahawks teammates like Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor to attend the camp.
Like Ed Reed, Thomas plays safety with a unique style
Reed had a Hall of Fame career with the Ravens, and Thomas may join Reed in Canton one day. Those who sensed Thomas' potential for greatness saw the same quality in him that scouts saw in Reed – a nose for the football that you can't teach. Give props to Oakland Raiders General Manager Mike Mayock, who worked for NFL Network in 2010 and had this to say about Thomas before the draft.
"I've probably watched 300-400 snaps apiece and in my opinion, Earl Thomas is the most instinctive free safety I've seen on tape in five or six years," Mayock said. "He's a playmaker, he's got loose hips, and he's got the best range of any centerfielder I've seen coming out of college football in a long time. When I watch tape of these kids, I want to see how quickly they react to what their read is, and that's what I believe separates Earl Thomas."
Music is one of his passions
In college at Texas, Thomas played jazz piano with a band called Bad Bones. He can also play drums, organ, and saxophone.
During his freshman year in high school, Thomas would change from his football uniform into his band uniform to perform at halftime, then change back into his football uniform for the second half.
"It was kind of embarrassing," Thomas said. "We were a small school, so there were maybe 30-35 people in the band. I’d take off my shoulder pads and helmet and march in my cleats.”