It's been a bumpy ride to the Super Bowl for Ann Arbor native Devin Thomas
INDIANAPOLIS — Devin Thomas played his final two years of high school football just outside of Washtenaw County at Canton High School.
Still, he calls Ann Arbor home.
It’s where Thomas lives in the off-season, and he sports tattoos representing Ann Arbor.
On his right forearm Thomas has an ace of spades card tattooed, while a two of diamonds is on his left forearm, representing “Ace Deuce,” a local nickname for Ann Arbor.
“It represents my hometown, and I never want to forget where I came from,” Thomas said. “It played an integral part of my life growing up there as a young man.”
Thomas said he had to finish his high school career at Canton for the betterment of his own life.
“I had to go ahead and get my lifestyle together,” Thomas said. “I wasn’t doing too well at Ann Arbor Huron. I was having issues at home with my mom and stepfather, so I had to make a move for the best for me. I moved to stay with my dad and grow up.”
Thomas, a special teams player for the New York Giants, will meet New England in Super Bowl XLVI on Sunday in Indianapolis (6:30 p.m., NBC).
It’s been a long journey to the Super Bowl for Thomas.
Due to academic reasons, Thomas spent two years at Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College before ending up at Michigan State, where he declared for the NFL Draft after his junior season.
A second-round pick of Washington in 2008, Thomas never materialized for the Redskins. His best season consisted of 25 catches for 325 yards.
In 2010, he was caught sleeping in a team meeting, which was transmitted via Twitter by teammate Brandon Banks. Thomas also drew criticism from some within the organization for appearing in a Fantasia music video.
Four games into the 2010 season, new Washington coach Mike Shanahan released Thomas. He then played one game for Carolina before being released again.
Thomas then ended up with New York to finish out the 2010 season and began the process of resurrecting his career.
“Trials and tribulations,” Thomas said. “Going from being a top pick, then being humbled by being put down on special teams and trying to work my way back up — it’s kind of like a roller coaster ride, with its peaks and valleys.”
NFL analyst Jim Miller, a former Michigan State quarterback who also is on the Spartans’ radio broadcast, has noticed a change in Thomas.
“He wasn’t a good student, and that’s why he came out early,” Miller said. “I think for that and financial reasons is why he came out early. He’ll tell you that he was a little bit immature, but school wasn’t for him.”
Miller said Thomas knew Shanahan was a demanding coach.
“Devin Thomas knew he was a demanding coach but not how demanding of a coach he was,” Miller said. “I think from that point he has matured quite a bit. He’s a different guy than what I had talked to than the kid he was coming out of Michigan State.”
Thomas is content with the path he has taken.
“I can’t say I would do anything different,” Thomas said. “I think everything happens for a reason and there are reasons why things transpired as they did for me to grow as a person and grow as a football player.
“I think when it came down to adversity or dealing with hard times, that was the biggest thing I had to grow from. When things got hard or things weren’t going the way as planned you have to keep pushing, and not change your attitude or approach to things. You have to keep a positive attitude to make things happen.”
Thomas was in the right place at the right time against San Francisco in the NFC Championship, recovering both of Kyle Williams’ fumbles.
“We had a really good feeling what he could do special teams wise,” said New York special teams coordinator Tom Quinn. “Last year he immediately had an impact for us and this year he kind of picked up where he left off. Being the fourth or fifth receiver he has to contribute on special teams. He’s a gunner for us on punt team and has good strength and size for the position.”
Thomas hopes he can continue to make plays in the Super Bowl. It would make for some good chatter when he returns to Ann Arbor.
“It’s still where I go back to reside and I’ve got a lot of friends back there,” Thomas said. “It’s always fun to go back to relax and take some steam off.”