Browns tackle Joe Thomas was an iron man, Cleveland’s own on his NFL journey to the Hall of Fame

FILE - Cleveland Browns tackle Joe Thomas walks on the field during the team's NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sept. 10, 2017, in Cleveland. Joe Thomas will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, Aug. 5, 2023. (AP Photo/David Richard, File)

CLEVELAND — Due to space limitations, Joe Thomas was given only 300 tickets to disperse among dozens of family members, former teammates, friends and other guests to attend his upcoming Pro Football Hall of Fame induction.

Not everyone made the cut.


“I invited all my Browns head coaches and quarterbacks, then ran out,” he cracked.

At least Thomas can joke these days while reflecting on a stellar NFL career that included so many miserable, losing seasons in Cleveland — he played for six coaches and blocked for 20 different starting QBs — while at times pushing himself through debilitating pain just to stay on the field.

For 11 years, Thomas was a pillar of excellence for a franchise that has spent most of the past two-plus decades in disarray. An iron man, he played 10,363 consecutive snaps, a streak believed to be a league record, before being forced off the field with a torn triceps midway through Cleveland’s 0-16 season in 2017.

He was a technician on the field, his performance shaped by an endless quest for perfection. Outside the lines, Thomas was the consummate teammate.

Thomas played on just one winning team — the Browns went 48-128 with him — and he never made the playoffs, the only blemish on an otherwise flawless resume.

“I’m not a guy who thinks about what could have been or things that were out of my control,” Thomas told The Associated Press. “I’m very satisfied with my career, but certainly the big hole is not bringing a championship to Cleveland because that was my driving force since the day I got to Cleveland.”

It’s not even arguable: Thomas is the best thing about the Browns since their 1999 expansion rebirth.

A 10-time Pro Bowler, six-time All-Pro and regarded as one of the best left tackles in league history, Thomas was always there for his team and a city that embraced the Wisconsin native as one of its own from the moment he was drafted.

“Rare breed,” said Browns All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett, who spent his rookie season with Thomas. “He’s a natural whether it’s football, the media. He’s got a glowing personality. A great person. He helped me so much studying the game.”

Elected for enshrinement in his first year of eligibility, Thomas will be introduced by his wife, Annie, and their four children, before he’s the fitting closing speaker on Saturday in Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, which will be overrun by Browns fans.

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