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A.D. Soaking Up Super Bowl

Seven years ago, a 23-year-old Adalius Thomas suited up in his white uniform with purple and black trim, ready to play on the grandest stage of all - the Super Bowl.

But, although the Ravens went on to win the game by the whopping score of 34-7, the linebacker never got to contribute to Baltimore's defensive effort.

Now, as a major contributor to the undefeated New England Patriots, Thomas won't be denied a chance to get on the field.

Thomas, who played in only three regular season games in 2000 after the Ravens chose him in the sixth round out of Southern Mississippi, saw time in that year's AFC Championship game, posting one pass deflection and a special teams tackle.

But, "A.D." was deactivated for the Super Bowl. He got a ring, but barely broke a sweat.

"They took my helmet," he said with a chuckle, "but I was going to run on the field."

While he may have not been able to show his skills that fateful night against the New York Giants, Thomas has a chance to make up for it Sunday against the same opponent.

Amidst the hoopla and circus-like atmosphere that surrounds his second opportunity, Thomas is relishing everything about it.

"Being a rookie and so young, I don't think you understand how hard it is to get there," he said. "You're like, 'It's going to be easy to get back, and this is it. Now, here I am seven years later back at it and understanding how hard it is to get here."

In one of the countless press conferences during Super Bowl week, the former Baltimore radio show host soaked up the attention and noted his rise from unheralded rookie to stalwart performer.

"Hard work and dedication are what went into earning the right to be on a podium like this," he explained.

However, don't think Thomas has forgotten his roots from his tiny Equality, Ala. hometown, despite his accomplishments.

A former special teams Pro Bowl performer for the Ravens (2003), Thomas busted out for Baltimore in 2006, starting all 16 games and posting 106 stops and 11 sacks. The jack-of-all-trades was rewarded with another trip to Hawaii, this time as a linebacker.

Perhaps more importantly, he was rewarded with a lucrative free agent contract with the Patriots, the richest of any linebacker at the time.

Thomas flourished with New England, finishing third on the team with 82 tackles, 6.5 sacks and an interception that he returned 65 yards for a touchdown in Week 2.

Even though the Patriots, now a historic 18-0, are shooting for an unprecedented perfect season this weekend, Thomas has kept his typical even keel.

It is a trait he always displayed in the Ravens' locker room and brought with him north, where he made his Patriots teammates by making shirts that had "Humble Pie" emblazoned across the chest.

"You are only as good as your weaknesses," Thomas insisted. "You go out there and work on things that you aren't good at. When you do that, it helps you get better as a team. You may not necessarily see it right away, but it will come back up."

Thomas has fit into his new home with the Patriots, even drawing praise from head coach Bill Belichick, who is hardly quick with a compliment.

"Adalius has been great," said the coach. "He's tough and versatily. He does a lot of things well, and I think the players and his teammates have really taken to him. He's great to have on this team."

Standing on a lonely podium Monday, faced with the prying eyes of 20 or more cameras and even more microphones, Thomas reflected at the fun he was having his second time around the championship tour.

"Right now, you really enjoy all there is with the press conferences," he admitted. "It's really all in fun, and you really just try to remember everything. You never get a chance to do this again."

Actually, Thomas is one of the few that do.

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