Among all of the Miami Dolphins, idle tackle Jonathan Martin knows the team’s new celebrity safety the best, because they played together in college.
So when Michael Thomas made a game-winning interception in his NFL debut and found himself mobbed by teammates who didn’t even know his name, Martin was quick to send a congratulatory text message, coast to coast and Stanford alum to Stanford alum.
“That means a lot,” Thomas said Tuesday.
Thomas said Martin’s still rooting for Miami, despite his allegations of daily harassment by teammates that prompted him to leave the team in October. The Dolphins (8-6) are winning thanks to a broad cross-section of contributors, none more improbable than Thomas.
“Michael Thomas, the new superstar,” coach Joe Philbin said.
Undrafted out of college, Thomas joined the Dolphins last week when they signed him off the 49ers’ practice squad, where he had spent the past two seasons. Once in town, he worked with Miami’s scout squad but didn’t practice with the defense, and was expected to play only on special teams Sunday against the New England Patriots.
But when cornerbacks Brent Grimes and Nolan Carroll left the game with injuries, nickel back Jimmy Wilson switched to corner, and Thomas found himself in the game at safety with four minutes left.
In the final minute, with Miami leading 24-20, Tom Brady tried to pull off the Patriots’ fourth consecutive comeback victory. With 27 seconds to go.
Brady threw for the end zone on first down, but Thomas leaped and swatted the ball out of Danny Amendola’s grasp. After two more incompletions, Brady threw Thomas’ way again on fourth down, and he jumped again to intercept a pass intended for Austin Collie.
Thomas fell to his back, still clutching the ball as he looked to the sky. Soon he was in tears.
“I thought about all the hardships I had been through to try to get to this one moment,” he said. “Later, when I talked to my mom, it was really emotional. She had prayed for me all the time and told me, ‘Keep the faith. Keep working. You’ll get your shot. When you get it, take advantage.’ For it to actually happen was great. The whole family was crying.”