Thomas at the New Orleans Saints Super Bowl XLIV victory parade
December 18, 1984 |
|Height:||5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)|
|Weight:||215 lb (98 kg)|
|High school:||Lansing (IL) T. F. South|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NFL statistics|
Charles Pierre Thomas Jr. (born December 18, 1984) is an American football running back who is currently a free agent. He played college football at Illinois. He was signed by the New Orleans Saints as an undrafted free agent in 2007. Thomas developed into an all-around threat as a runner, pass catcher, blocker, and special teams player. He led the Saints in rushing yards in 2008 and 2009 and again in 2013, when he also led all NFL running backs in receiving yards. He became known for his excellence in executing the screen pass; it was a screen pass on which he scored the Saints' first touchdown in their 31-17 win over Indianapolis in Super Bowl XLIV, two weeks after he had scored two touchdowns in the Saints' 2009 NFC Championship game victory.
Thomas played high school football at Thornton Fractional South High School in Lansing, Illinois, where he ran for 5,565 yards and 88 touchdowns in his career. He was twice named to the all-state teams of the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times and as a senior he was player of the year for the Champaign News-Gazette. Some of his self-taught practice for high school football included running up a steep hill with a backpack full of books on and pushing cars around.
He was recruited by the University of Illinois. He led the team in rushing for three seasons. In 40 games he ran for 2,545 yards (6th all-time in Illinois history) and 20 touchdowns, had 57 catches for 411 yards and 3 touchdowns, and a total of 4,451 all-purpose yards (then second all-time at Illinois). Nevertheless, he was not invited to the NFL combine, and ultimately he was not selected in the 2007 NFL Draft.
Thomas signed with the New Orleans Saints as an undrafted free agent, on the recommendation of special teams coach Greg McMahon, who had previously been an assistant at Illinois. He was impressive in preseason games and the Saints ultimately decided to keep him while releasing the running back they had chosen with their fourth round draft pick, Antonio Pittman.
He signed a new four-year contract before the 2011 season, and in March 2014 he signed a two-year contract extension, ending widely reported speculation that he might be released due to team salary cap problems.
On March 4, 2015, the Saints released Thomas, making him a free agent.
Thomas’s rookie year saw him buried on the depth chart behind Reggie Bush, Deuce McAllister, and Aaron Stecker, only logging 79 touches all year. During Week 2, Thomas turned only the second touch from scrimmage of his NFL career into a 24-yard touchdown against the Saints’ longtime rival, the Atlanta Falcons. However, it was not until Week 17 against the Chicago Bears that the NFL world first witnessed the kind of production Thomas would display over the course of his NFL career. In a game that saw notable Saints’ players Bush, McAllister, Marques Colston, and Terrance Copper all sit or leave the game with injuries, Thomas was afforded the opportunity to touch the ball on 32 of the 83 offensive plays. He finished the game with 226 yards from scrimmage and the second touchdown of his career.
After once again starting the season buried on the depth chart, a mid-season injury to Reggie Bush gave Pierre Thomas the lead-back opportunity on the NFL’s highest scoring offense. During Weeks 11-16, Thomas averaged 112.8 scrimmage yards per game as the Saints went 4-2. He scored at least one touchdown in all six games, including two-touchdown performances in three of them.
After losing the majority of Week 1 to injury, Thomas got his first full-game action of the season going in Week 2 with a rushing performance that would end up as the best of his entire 9-year career. Thomas ran for 126 yards and 2 touchdowns on just 14 carries in a dominant 27-7 victory over the Buffalo Bills. Thomas only received more than 14 carries once more all season, but at 5.89 scrimmage yards per touch, he served as an efficient Saints’ contributor during their 13-0 start to the season. In the NFC Championship Game against the Minnesota Vikings, Thomas contributed 99 yards and 2 touchdowns in a narrow 31-28 overtime win that sent the Saints to Super Bowl XLIV. He produced another 85 yards and the Saints first touchdown of the game on his famous screen pass to help put the Saints in position to beat the Indianapolis Colts with a score of 31-17. This win marked the first championship in New Orleans Saints history, capping off an impressive 16-3 season and Thomas’s career best 1,095 yards from scrimmage.
After losing all but 6 games of the 2010 season due to ankle injuries, Pierre Thomas bounced back in 2011 with another productive season for the 13-3 Saints. He only had two games all season with over 100 yards from scrimmage, however he still finished with 987 yards on 6.17 yards per touch. After totaling 121 yards in the NFC Wildcard Round against the Detroit Lions, Thomas’s season ended earlier than expected against the San Francisco 49ers. In the NFC Divisional Round, he took a shot to the head on the 1-yard line that resulted in a concussion. The Saints lost the game 32-36 and Thomas did not see the field again until the 2012 season.
Thomas was born on Chicago's South Side, the son of Charles and Greta Thomas. His parents divorced a few years later and Greta moved with her children to Lynwood, Illinois, where she worked for the United States Postal Service. He has been reported to be of Haitian descent.
In 2013, Thomas was the Saints' team nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award in acknowledgment of his extensive charitable activities, including his iCan Foundation, which fights childhood obesity.
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