Terrell Thomas' interception on Sunday came with his mother, Teressa Knox, sitting in the stands. After the game he noted that she had attended three games this season and he'd come down with an interception in each of those games. She was a bit of a lucky charm for him.
Turns out she's also been a strong force and an example for him too, one of the reasons he's blossoming into one of the top cornerbacks in the NFC.
Thomas and his older brother grew up in California in a single-parent family.
"Obviously I got a lot of my strength and drive from her seeing what she went through to raise us," Thomas told Newsday on Monday at an event to collect holiday toys for The Boys & Girls Clubs in Bergen County. "It was a struggle being in a single-parent home, but she managed to make sure I always had the things that I needed . . . My mom is a very giving person. She's always smiling. It kind of rubbed off on me."
Thomas has a lot to smile about these days. He's a starting cornerback for the team with the best overall defense and passing defense in the conference. He has five interceptions and three forced fumbles, both among league leaders, and although it can be a somewhat more murky stat to track, according to the official NFL numbers he leads the league with 22 passes defensed.
Not bad for a guy who was incensed at the beginning of the season because people weren't sure he would be starting. Thomas became a starter last year when former first-round pick Aaron Ross was injured in training camp and had an abbreviated season. He played well for his first year on the job and saw himself as returning to that role . . . even if others didn't.
"I think I was still Aaron's backup going into this year," he said, admitting that it bothered him "a lot" to be thought of as someone who slid into the job and didn't earn it. "Nobody recognized me as the starter for what I had done over the past year. It was just extra motivation for me to go out there and keep playing."
Now Thomas is firmly entrenched in the position, starting opposite Corey Webster. And he's starting to get props not just from outsiders but from the people whose opinions he holds in high regard.
"This league is all about respect and that's what I play for and everybody is noticing," he said, noting that he's received comments from players around the league who played with and against him in college and over the last three seasons.
He's also shown some versatility. On Sunday, when the Redskins were playing a three-tight end set in an effort to get a bigger body on him, the Giants countered the move by pushing their safeties and a linebacker up to cover the tight ends and dropping Thomas back deep. It was from that position that he intercepted the pass early in the fourth quarter.
"He is a versatile player and he can play inside and he can play outside," Tom Coughlin said. "He put himself in position, played a very good game once again, and I'm hoping that this continues to build."
So is Thomas.
"I think I'm doing a good job in the last couple of games at the right time," he said. "People remember you in December. When the ball is in the air I'm making plays on it and everything is just going in my fortune right now. Stay humble, keep working hard and keep it going throughout the playoffs."
And keep having mom in those stands.