No doubting Thomas after 2 TDs
Behind Robb Thomas, buried in a corner of his locker, two footballs lay in the shadows. I haven't gotten many of them lately," he said, smiling. "They don't come along that often."
Not often at all. The only NFL touchdown receptions he had going into Sunday's game came four years apart - one for the Kansas City Chiefs in 1991, one for Seattle in 1995. His previous two-touchdown game was against Southern California in 1988, his senior year at Oregon State. So Sunday's two-TD, five-catch, 73-yard game for the Bucs was one to savour.
"One day doesn't make a career," Thomas said. "I'll just show up Monday and start working for the next game and see what happens. I don't want to get caught up in all of this. I just want to work hard and be productive on special teams and maybe contribute some more to our offense."
He need not worry about that. "He's going to play," offensive coordinator Mike Shula said. "A guy that makes plays like that, it's tough to keep guys like that off the field."
Thomas came out of obscurity to become one of the stars in the 24-13 victory over Minnesota. He came off the waiver wire, compliments of the Seattle Seahawks.
He was a sixth-round draft choice by the Chiefs and started a dozen games in his second and third seasons before becoming expendable and signing as a free agent with the Seahawks at the start of the '92 season.
After four years of special-team and third-down duty, "I knew what was coming," Thomas said. "I knew I didn't fit in their plans."
He was cut the Sunday night after Seattle's final Saturday night preseason game. "You think, `Maybe my career's done.' But I thought I still had some football left in me," Thomas said. So he played some golf the next day, then checked his messages. That night he was on his way to Tampa Bay.
Tony Dungy knew him well. Dungy was Kansas City's defensive backs coach the three years Thomas played there. "When we saw him on the waiver wire," general manager Rich McKay said, "we said, `This is what we need in a backup.' When called upon, he can perform. He practices hard every week. He's always prepared mentally."
Thomas spent three weeks inactive, learning the system. He spent the next two games on the sideline, waiting.
"Everyone wants to be a starter," he said, "but that's not always going to be your role. You have to be whatever the coach wants you to be. But even when you're not starting, you have to see yourself as a starter. If you see yourself as a backup, you may not have the confidence to play as well as you can when you do get in there. When Alvin got hurt I knew I was probably going to get my chance to play," Thomas said, referring to the right hand Harper cut in practice last week. I had fun just running onto the field."
By the fourth quarter, Thomas had his first Bucs touchdown catch - and cramps. He was in the locker room, receiving intravenous fluids, when Mike Alstott's catch put the Bucs ahead.
"It was kind of weird," Thomas said. "I ran out of the locker room, ran onto the field - my head wasn't even back in the game yet - and ran my pattern and caught a touchdown. It was almost too easy."
It worked just as in practice.
"Yeah, we'd been running that play all week, and every time we did, I scored," he said. "Everything that worked during practice worked during the game. There were no surprises."
Bruce Lowitt, The St.Petersburg Times 1996