Sunday, December 15, 2013

Dolphins barely know 'No. 31' but glad to have him


The Miami Dolphins signed defensive back Michael Thomas on Tuesday. On Sunday, he caught the game-sealing interception off Tom Brady in the Dolphins' 24-20 win over the New England Patriots.

The newly-arrived second-year safety, who was signed off the San Fransisco 49ers' practice squad just five days prior, was thrown into the game due to injuries in the secondary and was in the right place at the right time, picking off Brady in the end zone.

It turns out that Thomas was just as unfamiliar to some of his teammates before the critical turnover as he was to most fans.

"I didn't even know his first name," defensive lineman Jared Odrick said, via the Sun Sentinel's Omar Kelly.

And after the interception was caught, the game over, and the celebration underway, offensive tackle Brian McKinnie said, "Who is No. 31?"

No. 31 was, at least up until the final defensive play of this critical game, one of any number of the bottom-of-the-roster signees that come in and out during the season, in this case brought in after Dimitri Patterson and R.J. Stanford were lost to injured reserve.

But on Sunday, after injuries to starting cornerbacks Nolan Carrol and Brent Grimes left the Dolphins perilously thin at the position, the minimally-prepared Thomas was thrown in to help Miami stop Brady's latest comeback attempt.

"I knew I was going to be that guy who goes out there and does my job," Thomas said. “I knew being the new guy Tom Brady was going to come after me. Everybody trusted me enough to actually go out there and make that type of play and I’m going to remember this one for the rest of my life.”

Before coming to South Florida, Thomas was a developmental defensive back prospect coveted by the 49ers, who were giving him a premium practice squad salary to wait until he got a call up.

But now he's a Dolphin, and his readiness for Sunday's moment drew praise from one of his most respected veteran teammates, who saw his NFL opportunity come in a similar way.

"Not a lot of guys know what that’s like but I know because I got that, 'Hey you, get in there' before," defensive end Cameron Wake said, via the team website. "But here he is, he gets thrown in the fire and how much more could you ask for. I’m proud of him and I’m glad he’s on my side."

Follow Sean @seanldonovan
Follow AFC East Daily @AFCEastDaily