Tra Day

Posted: August 16th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 15 Comments »

The fall of 1997 was an interesting time.  I got my first computer (other than a Vic-20 from my youth) that November.  That introduced me to the Internet.  I was taping a lot of college games and my scouting was getting more serious.  Life was pretty good.

The Eagles were in the midst of a roller coaster season.  Win a couple, lose a couple.  They finished 6-9-1 (losing streak at the end killed ’em after getting to 6-6-1).  Bobby Hoying looked like a franchise QB.  Duce Staley was there to be the RB of the future.  WR help was definitely needed, but back then the Eagles always seemed to be able to find a WR.  The big thing the team needed (in my mind) was a LT.

As I started studying prospects for the 1998 draft, I was focusing on LTs.  One guy really caught my eye…this tall kid from Florida State.  His name was Tra Thomas.  Watching him pass block for FSU was fun.  He was athletic.  He had great feet.  He could just shut down good pass rushers.  The more I watched him, the more I settled on the fact that he should be our target.

In April of 1998 the Eagles listened to me and did take Tra Thomas.  I was ecstatic.  Bobby Hoying had a stud LT to protect his blind side.  The Eagles were certainly headed in the right direction.


The team went 3-13.  Hoying fell apart completely.  The team quit on Ray Rhodes.  One thing that did work right…the play of Tra at LT.  He gave the Eagles exactly what they wanted.  The QB no longer had to fear pass rushers from that side.

Things got better in the Andy Reid era.  He brought stability to the organization.  Jon Runyan was added and the Eagles suddenly had a pair of bookend OTs.  Donovan McNabb was the star QB.  Tra Thomas held down LT year after year, win after win.

He wasn’t perfect.  Simeon Rice got the better of him a few times over the years.  Tra admits openly that run blocking was never a strength of him.  He was so tall that getting low and being able to move guys off the ball wasn’t easy.  Whereas Runyan would just bully and over-power guys, Tra was an athlete and just didn’t have that ability.

Tra had some back issues that affected his play at times.  He missed games here and there.  Still, he brought much needed stability, as well as talent, to the LT spot.  Ron Heller and Barrett Brooks did their best in the early to mid-90’s, but just weren’t guys you wanted facing top pass rushers.  The Steve Wallace experiment in the summer of 1996 was an utter disaster.  People think Winston Justice got eaten alive by the Giants.  Wallace almost got Rodney Peete killed in a preseason game against the Patriots.  That might have been the worst LT play I’ve ever seen.  All those adventures went away with the arrival of Tra.

So today Tra Thomas officially retired as an Eagle.  Tra broke down as he spoke about Andy Reid being like a second father to him.  You can really see the impact that Reid has with his guys when they speak about him.  There is a connection that goes beyond just player and coach.

Tra told a great story about draft day.  He flew up to Philly and Juan Castillo picked him up at the airport.  They immediately went to The Vet and Juan was having Tra do some pass sets right then and there.  Tra said he immediately knew that this was the right coach for him.  He thanked Juan for pushing him so hard and teaching him so much during his career.

Someone asked Tra about memorable games.  He admitted that he didn’t have a great memory for things like that.  He did mention shutting down Derrick Thomas in his rookie season of 1998 as a game that showed him he could handle the NFL.

Tra talked about Ray Rhodes, somewhat indirectly.  He made mention of the crazy speeches that Ray would give before games.  Younger/newer fans may not have heard about this.  Ray was famous for telling players “Imagine a guy has broken into your house.  He’s got a gun on your wife and kids.  What are you gonna do about it!!??!!”  Ray wanted guys fired up beyond fired up.  He wanted them crazy.  Tra referred to the speeches as ridiculous, and clearly they were.  You can use a speech like that once or twice, but on a regular basis?  No way.

Tra said that after losses in 1998 the players would be like “Oh well, let’s go have a good time.”  That attitude and atmosphere is a big part of what got Ray fired.  He trusted players too much.  Ray had been a fringe player and he lived and died for the NFL.  He just assumed his players would do the same.  Not even close.  Then Andy Reid showed up and everything changed.  He had a plan for everything and players were held accountable.  DT Bill Johnson was cut in the middle of the 1999 season for being too happy/jovial after a brutal loss.  Reid wanted winners.  He wanted people who cared.  Tra became one of his guys.

The only losing season that Tra Thomas and Andy Reid had together was 2005.  One of the reasons that the season didn’t work was that Tra was hurt and only played 10 games.  Some guy named Terrell also affected that year.

Tra signed with JAX for the 2009 season.  He got down there and immediately realized that he was done.  He played in 8 games and started 3, but it wasn’t Philly.  There was no Reid.  There was no McNabb.  There weren’t passionate fans to make the games exciting.  He knew it was time to retire and did just that.

I encourage you to go over to and watch the video when  you can.  It isn’t posted yet, but should be by this evening.  You will see that Tra truly does bleed Eagles green.  He loves the franchise.  He loves the fans.  He said that he’s talked to them about getting into coaching.  That would be something for next spring.

Tra Thomas was a great Eagle and big part of the success of the Reid era.  Too often we take OL for granted.  Without him and Runyan and Welbourn and Fraley and Big Kid and JamJax and Toddfather, the last 10+ years would not have been the same.  It was great to see Tra get to be the star of the show for a day.

15 Comments on “Tra Day”

  1. 1 T_S_O_P said at 3:38 PM on August 16th, 2012:

    I had my doubts about Tra, not that I knew a thing about him, rather the Eagles ability to draft misses at LT in round 1 going back throughout my (and your) time as a fan

  2. 2 TommyLawlor said at 3:40 PM on August 16th, 2012:

    Used to be brutal with us and OTs. We got excited when guys would be adequate. Then Tra came along and changed all of that.

  3. 3 ICDogg said at 7:57 PM on August 16th, 2012:

    Yeah, after Kevin Allen, Antone Davis, Lester Holmes, Bernard Williams, and Jermaine Mayberry (who at that point had shown nothing), it did not look from an Eagles fan perspective like O-line was a high percentage pick.

  4. 4 ACViking said at 4:12 PM on August 16th, 2012:


    As bad as Steve Wallace was, I think the worst performance at LT for the Eagles — by a starter, not a back-up like Justice — was in 1985.

    HC Marion Campbell inserted rookie 1st-round pick and training-camp holdout Kevin Allen — from U-Indiana chosen w/ the 9th overall pick — to start at LT on opening day against the Giants to protect Jaws’ blindside.

    (The Eagles chose Allen over Jim Lachey, an Ohio State All American at OT, who’d go on to become maybe the best LT of his era. The Chargers selected Lachey w/ the 12th pick, where he made All Conf his first 2 years and All Pro by his 5th year. He’s best remembered as the Redskins LT — acquired from Oakland in a rare in-season blockbuster trade for QB Jay Schroeder — who battled Clyde Simmons twice a year from 1988 to 1993.)

    But on opening day of 1985, Allen was facing off against HOF OLB Lawrence Taylor and RDE Leonard Marshall, who was about to have the best year of his career (making All Pro and the Pro Bowl for the first of two consecutive years) — just as the Giants’ defense was reaching its prime.

    In less than 3 quarters, Kevin Allen gave up a total 6 sacks to Taylor and Marshall. Jaworski was nearly killed several times.

    After 4 starts in 1985, Allen lost his job to journeyman Ken Reeves.

    In 1986 — as I’ve commented before — Buddy Ryan cut Allen during training camp. Allen’s career (and freedom after being convicted on rape charges) was over.

    Tom Jelesky replaced Allen and

  5. 5 ICDogg said at 7:50 PM on August 16th, 2012:

    Kevin freaking Allen. Yeah, he ranks up there as one of the worst if not the worst Eagles selection of all time.

  6. 6 ACViking said at 8:37 PM on August 16th, 2012:

    No Eagles’ 1st round choice — not even Jon Harris — was worse than Arkansas RB Harry Jones in 1967.

    You just don’t draft a RB named “Harry Jones.”

    Compounding the problem, GM-HC Joe Kuharich used the Birds’ 1967 3rd round pick to select Nebraska RB Harry Wilson.

    Between them, 1st-rounder Harry Jones and 3rd-rounder Harry Wilson gained a total of 95 yards on 48 carries over 4 seasons.


  7. 7 ICDogg said at 11:33 PM on August 16th, 2012:

    Yeah, I probably should have said “that I can remember”… I was 9 years old when we drafted Harry Jones

  8. 8 ACViking said at 5:13 PM on August 16th, 2012:


    Really great write-up on Tra Thomas . . . and shout out to guys like Welbourn.

    T_S_O_P is right on target with his comment about how the Eagles kept missing at OT in the draft.

    In 1973, the Eagles hit the target with the 3rd overall pick, taking OT Jerry Sisemore from U-TX. In 1974, the Eagles acquired OT Stan Walters from the Bengals. Those guys were the anchors for the teams that Vermeil later turned into winners — just like Tra and Runyon anchored the O-lines for Reid’s playoff teams.

    But starting in 1988, the Eagles badly missed with O-line moves.

    First, Buddy Ryan traded the Birds’ 1989 1st-round pick to the Colts for All Pro OG Ron Solt — which choice the Colts used to select All Pro WR (and arsonist) Andre Rison. But the NFL suspended Solt for using steroids. And Solt had bad knees. When he finally donned Eagles green (Kelly green, that is), Solt was a shell of what he showed as a Colt. Sort of an Artis Hicks-type.

    Next came 1992 and Rich Kotite’s trade of two No. 1 picks to the Packers for the chance to select U-TN All American Antone Davis. Day after day in 1992, he went nose to nose with Reggie White. Only White’s good nature on non-game days prevented him from embarrassing Davis on a daily basis.

    Then came 1994. Kotite wasn’t done building the O-line. With Davis ensconced at ROT, Kotite wanted a LOT and chose UGA’s 6’8, 317 lb All American Bernard Williams with the 14th choice in Rd 1. Suffice it to say that Williams’ career ended after only 1 season in a haze of pungent smoke.

    In 1995, Ray Rhodes added OT Barrett Brooks in Rd 2. Brooks went on to journeyman career, including a Super Bowl title in 2005 w/ the Steelers . . . but only 4 seasons as an Eagle (clearly disappointing for a 2nd Rd pick).

    In 1996, Rhodes used the Eagles’ 1st Rd pick on Div-II All American Jermane Mayberry from UT A&M – Kingsville (f/k/a Texas A&I University) — where his o-line coach was DC Juan Castillo. Mayberry was supposed to OG. But, in his rookie year, he couldn’t beat out Eagles’ OGs Joe Panos and another former 1st round pick by Kotite, Lester Holmes.

    In 1997, Mayberry’s second season, Rhodes installed him at OLT. Mayberry was no LT. (But he was a pretty damn good ROG, getting league-wide acclaim in 2002, playing next to John Runyon and making his last appearance as an Eagle in the 2004 Super Bowl.)

    And then . . . in 1998 . . . there was Tra Thomas.

  9. 9 the guy said at 7:34 PM on August 16th, 2012:

    It really seems like you should get your own section on this site.

  10. 10 TommyLawlor said at 7:57 PM on August 16th, 2012:

    We’re working on something like that.

  11. 11 D3FB said at 9:25 PM on August 16th, 2012:

    Horay! There was much rejoicing in the city!

  12. 12 Jamie Parker said at 9:09 PM on August 16th, 2012:

    We can’t say they weren’t trying. Kinda like Reid and WR’s. He didn’t really get it right until 2008 with D-Jax and then the next year with Maclin.

  13. 13 A_T_G said at 8:38 PM on August 16th, 2012:

    …and mother f%€£ers act like they forgot about Tre.

  14. 14 Jamie Parker said at 9:01 PM on August 16th, 2012:

    “The only losing season that Tra Thomas and Andy Reid had together was 2005. ” The 5-11 1999 season would like to have a word with you.

  15. 15 Cafone said at 8:26 PM on August 17th, 2012:

    I always felt Tra was one of the most under appreciated and under valued players of the modern Eagles era. As you said, we had bookends. But Runyan got all the glory and fan love.

    Thanks for writing such a nice article about him. We could sure use him now!