Thomas’ never-ending ambition to succeed hasn’t weakened because he still feels the odds are stacked against him as they were as an undrafted free agent out of Illinois in 2007.
“I have always had the same mentality,” said Thomas. “I want to stay focused that way. My main goal is always to stay healthy and stay hungry. You can’t slip up in this field. I always have to remember that I have to work hard because there is always a guy trying to take my spot.”
He has established himself as one of the best running backs in team history during his Saints tenure. In 63 games with 22 starts, Thomas has carried 521 times for 2,501 yards (4.8 avg.) with 23 touchdown runs and added 166 receptions for 1,363 yards (8.2 avg.) with seven scoring grabs.
The native of the Chicago suburbs is having a smoother offseason than last year. At the end of the 2011 campaign, Thomas was a free agent coming off injured reserve with an ankle injury and the league was entering a lockout.
“Last year we had the lockout and I was just focused on getting healthy and back on the field,” said Thomas. “I re-signed with the Saints prior to the lockout and then I just dedicated myself on working out nonstop.”
In 2011, Thomas rebounded from his injury-plagued 2010 season and collected 110 carries for 562 yards (5.1 avg.) with five touchdowns, also catching a career-high 50 passes for 425 yards (8.2 avg.) with one touchdown.
Thomas’ ability to be as strong of a weapon in the running game, passing game and as a blocker has made him one of the most valuable talents in an offense that has been ranked first in the NFL four out of the past five seasons.
“You do what you have to do to get the job done in this offense,” said Thomas. “I do whatever the team needs and I surround myself with people that push me as well.”
Included in Thomas’ circle of supporters are fellow running backs
Despite playing the same position, all four tailbacks don’t see one another as the competition but as brothers with one common goal: to help the Saints win.
The Saints quartet of running backs combined for 2,013 rushing yards and 13 rushing scores on 398 carries and 1,181 receiving yards and eight receiving scores on 147 receptions last season. The Saints ranked sixth in the NFL in rushing yards per game (132.9 avg.) in 2011.
“We push each other to do our best,” Thomas said of the Saints backfield. “Everybody steps up and takes charge. We could be in the weight room and Chris will say ‘let’s do one more lift’. Mark and Sproles are the same way.”
Thomas said the black and gold running backs are very close off the field and hang out on their off days. The foursome is even planning a trip together before training camp starts in late July.
“I am very excited to get things going and get back at it with these guys,” said Thomas. “I have always felt good about this group of running backs. I feel we have something special. Each one of us brings a unique skillset. We are trying to be the best backfield in the league. I see the excitement in these guys’ eyes. They are fired up.”