Dec. 28 (UPI) — A member from the U.S. Navy sent Cleveland Browns All-Pro Joe Thomas a heartfelt autograph request.
Thomas posted the note on Twitter Thursday.
“Football is just a game, but sometimes it can mean so much more to so many people,” Thomas wrote. “Thanks to the men and women of the US Military serving overseas that won’t be able to be with their families during this holiday season! @the_USO.”
The long note featured details from the service member’s tours of duty and an account of his childhood fandom of the Browns. Thomas, 33, joined the Browns as the No. 3 overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. He is a 10-time Pro Bowler and six-time All-Pro. Thomas trails only Clay Matthews, Jim Brown, Dick Schafrath and Gene Hickerson in Pro Football Reference’s franchiserankings for the best players in Browns history.
“Dear Mr. Thomas,” the letter began.
“My name is [omitted]. I was born and raised in Cleveland and I lived there until I joined the U.S. Navy in 2002. I have been in many squadrons ranging from the U.S. Navy’s flight demonstration squadron the ‘Blue Angels‘ to a test pilot school to my current command VFA-211 the ‘Checkmates’ out of Naval Air Station Oceana. I just got off a 10-month deployment in October, which I was embarked on the USS Carl Vinson. Before this deployment it was 8 years since my last deployment overseas and I forget why I do this. I forgot why I signed up to be away from my wife, children and my family. Then one day about 8 months ago it clicked. I was on the flight deck on the ship and the jets started to come back from a mission they were sent on. I started to notice they looked a little different than when they left. The reason they looked different is because they didn’t have the bombs on them that they did when they took off. Jet after jet landed with no bombs on their wings. Then I remembered. I do this so my family and friends can be safe in our homeland. There is a terror group that wanted to play and we played. Day after day, bomb after bomb, we played. I can’t go into details on how many bombs we dropped, but I know we made a difference on the war on terrorism while we were out there. It might sound a little cheesy, but I am extremely proud of the mission we just returned from. I tell you all of this because I wanted you to know a little about me before I asked you for something.”
“My family had Browns season tickets for as long as I can remember. He took me to my first Browns game when I was 4-years-old and I have been hooked ever since. From 1998 until 2002 when I joined the Navy, my father and I went to every single home game together. Honestly some of the best memories with my dad are from that your year span. All of those great times came to an end when I joined the U.S. Navy in 2002. In 2006, my wife and I had our first child and we have started our own tradition based off what my dad use to do with me. For about 4 years now we have tried to watch every single second of every game together when I am home and not deployed. He doesn’t go play outside or go play video games, he just sits there with me and watches you guys play. I was on deployment during a large part of last season and my wife sent me a picture of my son on the couch watching you guys. Next to him he put my favorite Browns jersey draped over the couch. All I could do is cry when I received that picture because I knew how special those moments must have been to my son for him to do that on his own.”
“I will stop wasting your time and get to the point of why I am writing you. A couple years ago my son and I started to collect autographs through the mail of our favorite Browns players and coaches from the past and the current rosters. He checks the mailbox every day to see if anything came for us If something comes in we all go to the computer and look up that players or coaches bio together. A lot of time we will talk about the man [off the gridiron] as well as the player. I wanted to do something extra special for him this year since I was deployed overseas last year at this time. Joe you are by far the greatest Browns player we have had in years and I can’t wait to see you in the halls of Canton after you retire. I just wish you would get you a Super Bowl ring before you retire. Thank you for staying with us for all these years. I know it has been [expletive] more times than not. Mr./ Thomas, I would love to add your autograph to our Browns autograph collection. If you don’t mind, could you please autograph a couple football cards for us Sir. I would like to thank you so much for taking the time to read our letter and sign our cards. I hope this letter finds you well and may you and your family have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.” “If you ever find yourself in the Ocean, Va. area please drop me a line. I would love to give you a tour of the flight line as well as the ordinance holding area [bomb farm]. I hope this letter finds you well and I truly [hope] to hear back from you in the near future.”
Thomas is signed with the Browns through 2018. He was given a $1.5 million raise for the 2018 season and received a $1.5 million roster bonus in early November.
Football is just a game, but sometimes it can mean so much more to so many people. Thanks to the men and women of the US Military serving overseas that won’t be able to be with their families during this holiday season! @the_USO pic.twitter.com/L7KZoF7JMT
— Joe Thomas (@joethomas73) December 28, 2017