Bringing you another Pittsburgh Steelers’ interview courtesy of our good friend Ron Lippock of the Pittsburgh Sports Daily Bulletin. Today, Ron chats with former Steelers’ safety Shamarko Thomas. They talk about his time with the Steelers, his workouts with Troy Polamalu, and what Thomas is up to today.
Be sure to check out Ron’s book, Steelers’ Takeaways: Player Memories Through The Decades, featuring over 400 interviews with players and coaches, past and present. You can buy it on Amazon through the link provided here.
First, let us know what you’re up to now?
Well, I’m training. Just waiting for a call. You know, the free agency process.
Has your agent told you anything? Any teams you are hoping for?
Just that I need to take it week to week. We’re just looking for a situation that works to get signed by a team. I’m not looking to get signed by any specific team really.
Looking back on your start in Pittsburgh – were you surprised to be drafted by the Steelers? What did they tell you when you were drafted?
Yeah. Definitely. When Carnell Lake worked me out I tweaked my hamstring and it didn’t go like I wanted it to. I didn’t think he wanted me. After that, Coach Tomlin called me when I was drafted and just said “Welcome to the team.” Then Troy Polamalu called me right afterwards and said the same thing and said it was time to get to work.
A lot has been made of Troy’s taking you under his wing when you were there, including being of the few invited to train with him. Why do you think he took that interest in you?
You’d have to ask him, but just my opinion, I think it was just because of the work I put into the game.We really didn’t talk a lot about football. It wasn’t about that. We talked more about God and building a strong foundation. We just really talked. I listened and he helped me to learn to be focused and prepared.
What were some of the things he talked most about that helped you?
Just about remaining humble. To put God first and work hard. Everyone could see how great Troy was on the field, but I don’t think they realize how much he put into the game – how hard he worked.
Well , everything he did was different. He trained from the toes up. He didn’t use weights. He ran – a lot. A lot of hills.
Did the other vets help you as well there?
They all did but not just by talking with me. They showed me the way. I watched them. The same routines every day. Working hard. Cam, Ben, Harrison…all the guys just showed a lot of confidence in themselves. Even in OTAs – I was shocked at how hard they worked even then.
One question I wanted to ask you. A lot of safeties that have been drafted by the Steelers – yet good athletes like yourself seemed to have struggled in Pittsburgh to secure spots and playing time. Why is that? Scheme?
It’s not that difficult of a scheme – so no, it’s not that. For me, it was just other things. I can’t go into detail on it.
Nothing to do with the need to play it safe in the scheme when as a safety you want to make plays instead?
No. It’s not about that. I just can’t get into the details of it. I have good relationships there and I just can’t really talk about it.
Ok – well let’s talk about some of the fun times there. Tell me a couple of good stories about your time there.
Well, in my rookie year, my locker was near Troy’s. I had a single locker and it was sort of next to Troy’s – in the same section. Well, I could see him talking to me then all of the sudden he disappeared. But he was still talking – I just couldn’t see him. I thought it was a prank.
Then I realized he had two lockers and he was in the second one- it had a fridge and other stuff in it. I also remember my first day there and meeting Troy in person. He was in these tennis shoes in camp and made this one-handed interception – a great play. Tomlin just looked at me and said “Yeah – it’s real out here! That’s Troy…” I remember simple things like that.
How hard was it when at the end of your contract you weren’t re-signed? What was said to you?
People talk about that and think there was no offer and things weren’t ok. I left on a good note – it wasn’t a bad situation. It was just about simple things. I’m not going to go into detail. But it was positive – all on good terms.
It wasn’t your hardest moment I know. It’s been written about I know, but tell us how you managed and how it affected you as a person and player when, as a college student, both of your parents passed away within months of one another?
It was a hard time. But I believed in God and had faith in God to lead me. It made me a more mature person. I had to take care of my brother. It turned me into a monster on the field. I had to feed my family. It took me to another level in my life.
Any advice for kids entering the game today?
You have to work hard and be dedicated. To be focused. Those are the key things. You gotta believe in yourself.
And any last thoughts for readers?
Yeah – I’d like to tell them about Destined for Greatness (Ed Note: Check the site out here). It’s my website – my wife and I created it. Well, my wife did all the work! Me and a friend came up with the idea. It’s just starting – we are selling clothes – shirts with motivational sayings on them – stuff like that. People should take a look – we’re hoping to use the money to help some foundations. We’re just starting it out.