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Joe Thomas Becomes the Third Badger Immortalized in Canton

Joe Thomas has officially been inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. He is just the third Wisconsin Badgers alum to earn that honor.



Former Wisconsin football player, Joe Thomas
November 4, 2006; Madison, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers offensive lineman (72) Joe Thomas warms up before the game against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Photo By Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports Copyright (c) 2006 Jeff Hanisch

We all knew it was going to happen, but now it’s official: former Wisconsin football star Joe Thomas is now a part of football immortality. He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame on Saturday as a part of a nine-member class.

Other notable members include DeMarcus Ware, Zach Thomas, and Darrelle Revis. This was the first year that Thomas was eligible for the honor, making him a rare first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Joe Thomas’ legacy with the Wisconsin Badgers

Joe Thomas was a homegrown prospect out of Brookfield, Wisconsin. Thomas was a 4-star prospect and was the 88th overall-ranked player in the country in the 2003 class, according to 247Sports’ composite rating. He was the fourth offensive tackle and second-ranked player in the state, behind defensive end Justin Ostrowski.

By the time he was a sophomore in 2004, Thomas was the starting left tackle for the Wisconsin football team. He played in all 12 games for the Badgers.

In 2005, he earned All-Big Ten honors and was considered a mid-first-round pick. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL in the Capitol One Bowl game against Auburn playing defensive end due to injuries at the position. So instead of forgoing his senior season, he came back to Madison for one more year — which really paid off for him.

In his senior season, he was a unanimous All-American and All-Big Ten winner. He was also the winner of the Outland Trophy, an award given to the best interior lineman in the country.

Joe Thomas had an ‘Iron Man’ career in Cleveland

The Wisconsin star entered the 2006 NFL Draft and had a very short wait. The Cleveland Browns took him with the third pick. He won the starting left tackle job as a rookie and never looked back. In fact, he went on to play every single snap for the Browns for the next ten years. That’s 160 straight games without missing a snap. In today’s NFL, it’s nearly impossible to find a guy who will be able to do that, let alone an offensive lineman.

In his 11th and final season in Cleveland, Thomas continued his streak for seven more games before suffering a season-ending injury. He retired after that season. In all, he played 167-straight games for the Browns without missing a start.

Above all, one of Thomas’ biggest accomplishments was his loyalty. He was a part of some really bad teams while in Cleveland. But despite all the losing, he stuck with the Browns when he could have signed elsewhere for a better chance to win. His loyalty may not have got him a ring or even a playoff victory, but sticking with the team that drafted you no matter what buys a lot of points with fans around the NFL.

Thomas earns a nod to Canton

During his time in Cleveland, Thomas earned a multitude of honors. He was a First-Team All-Pro six times, Second-Team All-Pro twice, and went to the Pro Bowl ten times. He is also a part of the NFL’s 2010 All-Decade Team and the Cleveland Brown’s Ring of Honor.

When he hung up his cleats there wasn’t a whole lot of questioning if or even when he would get a call to the Hall. He is the definition of a first-ballot player.

With his induction, Thomas becomes just the third Wisconsin Badger to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame The only other former Badgers are Elroy ‘Crazylegs’ Hirsch (enshrined in 1974) and Mike Webster (1997).

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Christian Borman was born and raised in Wisconsin and covers the Badgers football and basketball programs, plus some recruiting for He previously covered the Wisconsin Badgers for years as the site expert for Badger of Honor of the Fansided Network.