Tra Thomas: The Technician
The former first-round pick set a high standard for all future left tackles to follow. He will enter the Eagles Hall of Fame on Thursday alongside Jon Runyan.
By Chris McPherson
Tra Thomas vividly recalls meeting Eagles Offensive Line Coach Juan Castillo at Veterans Stadium for a pre-draft visit in 1998. As soon as Thomas arrived, Castillo took him out onto the turf field. Mind you, it was nighttime. There were no lights on in the stadium. Thomas was still in his clothes from the flight, the suitcase nearby. Castillo immediately started working with Thomas, the Florida State product, on vertical pass sets.
Some players might have been scared off, wondering what they were getting themselves into. Not Thomas.
"I'm like, 'Man, this is the coach I need to play for.' I canceled my (remaining pre-draft) trips after that," Thomas said. "I wanted someone that was going to push me, someone that was going to make sure that he taught me the right things. I wanted someone that was going to invest that energy in me. I wanted the coaching and that's what I got from Juan."
Even though Thomas was a highly touted draft prospect, telling the other teams around the league that you're not interested in meeting was a bit of a gamble. It paid off for both Thomas and the Eagles. The Eagles chose a generational blindside protector in Thomas with the 11th overall pick in that draft. Thomas wasted no time cultivating a relationship with the City of Philadelphia. He drove from Florida State's campus in Tallahassee to Philadelphia and immediately bought a house in the area to get settled prior to the team's first minicamp.
Good thing. He was the opening-day starter at left tackle for the Eagles as a rookie.