What up Who Dat Nation, it's Tee Word and I'm back with another Tee's Corner for ya! Based on previous entries into this series, you'd think I only cared about the defense but I actually love offense just as much. Today we explore the career of Charles Pierre Thomas Jr. aka The PT Cruiser and his exceptional ability to execute the screen play. The value of his outstanding skill is most apparent at seemingly the perfect moment almost every time. Unfortunately, like most money-plays, the rest of the NFL has caught up to the timing of the Saints screen and the better days may be behind us. But rather than mourn the end of an exciting era, let's celebrate our vehicle of choice for achieving amazing 1st downs, the PT Cruiser!
Pierre Thomas joined the New Orleans Saints in 2007 as un-drafted free agent out of the University of Illinois. Though unheralded and subsequently uninvited to the NFL Combine, Thomas was a standout athlete for the Illini and produced at a high level. While starting 33 of 40 games, PT totaled over 2500 rushing yards, 411 receiving yards, and 23 total TDs from the backfield in 4 seasons. As a receiver, Thomas collected passes for 1495 yards, impressive for a 5'11", 215 lb running back.
Birth of a Legend
After being passed on by every NFL team during the draft, Thomas tried out for the Saints and made the team. The drama in it all was the fact that an un-drafted free agent was able to outperform the Saints 4th round draft pick Antonio Pittman and earn a roster spot while Pittman was released. But this isn't news to those of you who know the story of PT's rise to Swiss-Army-back in New Orleans. From 2007-2008, Thomas quietly did his job and became a dependable cog in the Saints offense because he did it all, from gaining tough yards and extending screen plays to picking up blitzes. As Who Dat Nation entered the 2009 season, this soft-spoken young player was set to split time with Mike Bell and Reggie Bush in the backfield. Thomas led the team in rushing in 2008 and followed up by doing the same in 2009, making him the Saints first running back to lead the team in rushing on the way to a Super Bowl title (I know, I know)!
Thomas' biggest contribution during the Super Bowl came on a play that is now a classic, the PT Screen Play. On 1st & 10 from the Colts' 16 yard line at 11:54 of the 3rd quarter, Thomas lined up in the I behind Drew Brees and fullback Kyle Eckel. After the snap, Brees fakes a hand-off to PT to his right, the starts to quickly scan the field. Thomas carries out the fake then slips into the flats on the right side of the field. #23 then dazzles the crowd and dazes the defense with some shifty moves, leaving Colts defenders in his wake on the way to the end-zone for a diving 6 points. The Saints now held a 13-10 lead and the rest is Who Dat history. The Screen Play
All Good Things...
As amazing as Pierre Thomas has been as a Saint, there have been moments of frustration during his career as well. For every game that he gives us the sparkling effort runs and drive saving screens, he gives us one or two of head scratching. We sit and watch as PT cannot suit up for a key game on the schedule due to injury or he is not worked into the game-plan properly (not his fault). But then we also ponder his durability and consider how much longer he will be able to give us those plays that we love and wish for on those tough Sundays during Hell Games when nothing is going right. He is the spark that we crave! For me, I focus on the Now - enjoying the fact that he is still a Saint (for now) and continues to manage awesome plays.
My most memorable game from PT came against his hometown team, the Chicago Bears in 2013. Thomas had 36 rushing yards and 55 receiving yards, and 2 TDs on silky smooth screen plays, the longest was 25 yards! He followed that up in 2014 with another stingeroo against the Bears by catching 5 passes for 83 yards, second in receiving to Jimmy Graham on the day.
Let's hear it CSC, tell us your most memorable PT Cruiser moment. As always, thanks for reading and Be Cool Who Dats!