How many times do you recall hearing an announcer call Donald Thomas’ name this season?
Just the fact that you just said “Who?” out loud, to no one in particular, is perhaps the greatest compliment that you could pay the winner of the Next Man Up “Hippie Award”…
…because the best offensive linemen toil in anonymity, and when Thomas replaced one of the best guards in the NFL in perennial Pro Bowl selection Logan Mankins, the line never missed a beat – in fact, there is significant evidence that the running game was more efficient with him in the game in place of the injured Mankins.
This is not to say that he is better than Mankins – that isn’t what this award is about – just that he stepped in and was obviously more effective, as Mankins’ knee and hip issues kept him on the sidelines for long stretches.
He also saw time on the right side, playing in all 16 games and starting seven, the former 6th round pick of the Miami Dolphins doing so without anyone noticing….
…at least that’s what he thought. But here he is winning an award for stepping in and stepping up, doesn’t really matter if it is a recognizable award – just the fact that Patriots’ fans voted him for this award is telling of his status among the faithful.
Congratulations to Donald Thomas – and thank you for stepping up!