Football: Pierre Thomas hosts camp at TF South
By Tim O’Brien For Sun-Times Media June 21, 2012 10:52PM
New Orleans Saints running back and Lynwood native Pierre Thomas shows players how to drop back in a defensive backs drill at Pierre Thomas Skills Day at TF South High School in Lansing, Illinois, Thursday, June 21, 2012. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 23, 2012 7:45AM
New Orleans Saints running back Pierre Thomas, who’s preparing for his sixth NFL season, has heard all of the doubters.
The 5-foot-11 back was too small, not athletic enough and never would make the NFL.
Back at his alma mater Thursday at T.F. South in Lansing to run a football camp, Thomas said he welcomes the challenge of answering those doubters and proving them wrong.
“I’ve been through a lot on my journey, a lot of ups and downs,” he said. “My attitude, my coaches, my family and friends kept me on the positive side. They said ‘You’re good enough. Now show everyone you’re good enough.’ That’s what I’ve tried to do, show how good a player I really am.”
Backing it up
As a senior in 2002, Thomas helped the Rebels to the Class 6A state semifinals, where they fell 21-14 to Bloomington. He finished his high school career with 88 rushing touchdowns and 5,522 rushing yards, both school records.
Thomas headed to Illinois to continue his football career, racking up 2,545 rushing yards and 1,494 kickoff return yards for the Illini. Impressive stats weren’t enough, though as Thomas was not picked in the 2007 NFL draft. He ultimately signed with the Saints as a free agent.
“At Illinois, I was the underdog, the second guy and never the lead,” Thomas said. “Never got drafted, and I didn’t complain. When I got my opportunity I knew I had to kick the door down, and when the Saints gave me a chance to show what I had, that’s what I did.”
Out of a crowded Saints backfield over the past five seasons, Thomas has played in 63 games, starting 22. He has carried the ball 521 times for 2,501 yards and 23 touchdowns, with 166 receptions for 1,363 yards and seven TDs.
He also had a touchdown in New Orleans’ 31-17 win over Indianapolis in Super Bowl XLIV.
Scrutiny on the bounty
The Saints have suffered through a difficult offseason, with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell handing down severe penalties and suspensions for a financial bounty system on defense over the past three seasons.
Defensive players were awarded bounties or bonuses for inflicting hits that knocked opposing players out of games.
“I’m not really here to speak on that,” Thomas said Thursday. “I’m here to speak on T.F. South and doing this amazing camp with my foundation, doing a lot for the community and giving back.”
Saints coach Sean Payton was suspended for an entire year while four Saints players also received suspensions, including linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who will miss the entire 2012 season.
“We’re all right (as a team),” Thomas said. “We’re not really worried about it. I’m just happy to be out here with these kids and giving back.”
More than 100 campers came out to T.F. South on Thursday, running through about two hours of drills before taking pictures with Thomas, who signed autographs. More than 25 members of the T.F. South varsity program helped lead the camp.
“It’s great that he comes back. Everyone looks up to him as a role model,” T.F. South football coach Tom Padjen said. “He’s always someone we talk about as far as overcoming obstacles.”