Michael Thomas was honored on Tuesday night for all of the leadership and work he has done in the community. The Giants safety, with only one year under his belt with the organization, was named the team’s Hometown Hero at the 26th annual Gridiron Gala in support of the United Way of New York City.
“It’s humbling,” Thomas said of the recognition. “I just want to keep giving back to the community.”
When it comes to football, the Giants are hoping Thomas can provide the same characteristics on the field and in the locker room that he was honored for on Tuesday. Thomas is one of only a handful of veterans in a secondary that may have the widest generation gap in the NFL. At one end of the spectrum are established players Thomas, Antoine Bethea, and Janoris Jenkins. At the other end is a room full of rookies and second-year players, few of them established NFL players. About the only one who qualifies is safety Jabril Peppers, who the Giants picked up in the Odell Beckham Jr. trade with the Browns. He’s entering his third season.
“We bring the median age up a little bit,” Thomas joked of he and his two veteran teammates. “Last year was probably the youngest group I’ve ever been with… until this year.”
With the departures of veterans such as Landon Collins, Curtis Riley and B.W. Webb in free agency, this year’s secondary will have some very green talent. The Giants drafted three defensive backs last month to help fill the depth and compete with returning players coming off undrafted rookie seasons such as Sean Chandler and Grant Haley.
It will be up to the older guys to bring the younger players up to speed.
“The coaches have been doing a great job of teaching and explaining,” Thomas said.
But, he added, given the volume of younger talent, “we’re going to have to rely on players to coach up a little bit as well. Our coaches are allowing us to do that, especially at this early stage, and it’s been a blessing.”
Thomas is only 29, so he’s far from ancient. In the Giants’ secondary, though, he’s part of the over the hill gang.
“It brings its own challenges,” he said. “It keeps me young and fresh competing. These guys running for days don’t got to stretch. We have our work cut out for us but we got a great group. These kids are eager to learn and ready to compete.”
Thomas said his message to the pups is to pay attention.
“You can learn from Janoris, you can learn from AB, you can learn from myself watching what I do,” he said. “For me, being able to help those guys come along, we’re gonna depend on them and we’re gonna need them when the season comes.
“We have a great group,” he added, “so we have to get to work.”