Jimmy Haslam (opening statement)
“Good afternoon, and thanks a lot for coming. Today is obviously a sad and yet a happy day for the City of Cleveland and the Cleveland Browns as we announce the official retirement of Joe Thomas. (Head coach) Hue (Jackson) is sitting there looking at me like, ‘What in the world could be happy about this?’ (laughter) That is a fair statement.
“Today, it is important to being to celebrate what Joe Thomas accomplished in his career. I feel very strongly that as recognized as he was during his career, people will really begin to appreciate what he accomplished in his 10-plus years with the Cleveland Browns, both on and off the field. It really is truly remarkable. Most everybody knows the story. Joe was the No. 3 pick in the 2007 [NFL] Draft and went on to play 167 consecutive games, 10,363 [consecutive] snaps. If you just think about that of 10-plus years without not only missing a game but without missing a snap, it is a phenomenal record. Not only did Joe play a lot and play frequently, he played exceptionally well. Listen to this one statistic: He was selected to 10 straight Pro Bowls. In the history of the NFL, only five other people have accomplished that and none of them was a lineman – none of them was a lineman. The Cleveland Browns have had two members of its football team make nine Pro Bowls. They are both in the Hall of Fame: (Pro Football Hall of Famers and Browns alumni) Jim Brown and Lou Groza. That shows you the kind of stature that Joe has achieved. That is why today is really a day that we begin celebrating Joe Thomas’ career. We will celebrate it again this year at one of our games when the number ‘10,363’ is inducted into our Ring of Honor. Five years from now, all of us in this room will make the trek down to Canton where I feel very, very certain that Joe will be inducted as a first-ballot Hall of Famer into a positon he richly deserves, along with the other greats of the game. (Crowd applause)
“As good as Joe has been on the field, he has been equally good off the field. He is a three-time nominee for the Walter Payton (Man of the Year) Award. He was a finalist in 2012. He has been the Browns nominee for Salute to Service. He and Annie (Thomas) have been active in numerous good causes in the city of Cleveland. Most of all, Joe has represented the City of Cleveland, the Cleveland Browns and his family as a true pro. You never read anything bad about Joe Thomas. You never hear anything bad about Joe Thomas. He literally came to work every day and did his job, he went home every night and then came back and did it again for 10-plus years. Annie, we want to thank you for all the support you put behind Joe in helping him be the man that he is today and for toughing it out for lots of long games and for hanging in there with us and your three children.
“Joe, legend has it that 11 years ago when you were drafted, you were fishing out on the lake with your dad. There is a picture of you getting the cell call that you were drafted by the Browns and holding the fish. Knowing you, you probably still have the fishing rod, is that right? (laughter) ‘Absolutely’, he said. However, as a small token of our appreciation and there will be many more, we would like to and (General Manager) John Dorsey and Hue Jackson would like to present you – we would like to go full circle and give you another fishing rod. I understand you are going back to Wisconsin in a week and a half that you can use to fish. It is an appropriately embroidered fishing vest with the No. 73 on it. (Dorsey and Jackson present gifts to Thomas)
“Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage one of the all-time greats of the NFL, a sure-fire future Hall of Famer, Joe Thomas.”