Cards: Panini UT 2016, Panini Contenders 2016, Topps Valor 2016
Acquired: IP 2019, Kickin It
Failure: 2017, C/o The Seattle Seahawks
Earl Thomas is from a long line of outstanding defensive backs that have come out of the University of Texas. After Michael Huff and Aaron Ross won the Jim Thorpe Awards back to back- it seemed like the best had already passed, but Earl Thomas had a year for the ages at UT in 2009, posting 65 total tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, and 8 interceptions for 149 and 2 TDs. He’d declare for the NFL draft and be selected by the Seattle Seahawks in the first round (14th overall) of 2010.
Immediately settling into the secondary at free safety, Earl formed a key component of the Seahawks legendary secondary, “The Legion of Boom”. His rookie season, Thomas posted 5 interceptions, 7 pass breakups, 1 forced fumble, and 76 combined tackles. He’d earn his first of 7 Pro Bowl appearances the following year in 2011, and his first of 3 straight AP nominations in 2012, notching a career high 122 tackles in 2014. That year the Seahawks won the Super Bowl. The love affair seemed as though it would never end, but in 2017 rumblings began to emerge that Earl was wanting a new contract. This manifested into a full blown brouhaha in 2018 as he held out of camp, expressing the desire to have the contract renegotiated or traded to another team that’d pay him. A few teams stepped forward and tried to kick off negotiations- namely the Cowboys and Chiefs. Neither were able to get a deal done with Seattle brass due to the Seahawks’ high asking price. He’d report to camp for the first game and play well through week 4- when his season ended abruptly with a broken leg. As he was carted off the field he gave the Seahawks brass the single finger salute. In 2019, Earl signed a free agent contract with the Baltimore Ravens where he quickly returned to his intercepting ways.
Earl has a shoe store in Austin called Kickin’ It in The Domain area. A bourgeois section of town, the shoe store wants to stand out from the competition as being a place for avid shoe fans to hang out. From time to time to promote the store and keep with the vibe, they will bring guests in for signings. Earl originally was supposed to be there with the store opening, but with his broken leg and all, he couldn’t fly (see Scott Erney). Eventually Earl was able to make it and boy did it turn into a circus quickly.
I planned to get there about 3 to 4 hours before the event began, thinking that I’d be at the front of the line, but I was beaten there by 4-6 people. I stood out in the freezing cold then until the event began, as the line began to swell while waiting for my new cohort, Jeff, to arrive. Once he arrived, we chatted and waited. The line by that point was easily 200 deep. When Earl arrived, he emerged from his car with his family, with his young baby was clad in Cowboys paraphernalia.
Earl to be honest wasn’t happy. I think he had already figured out there were some resellers in the crowd and people weren’t spending money, and while I tried to be friendly with him, his disposition was notably sour. He signed 2 cards for me. A woman in front of me, loved how I was chit chatting with her family and gave them a card, so she got two more cards signed for me. As you can see there are just 3 cards up here. That is because I gave Jeff the 4th so we both ended up with 3 autographs.
We got back in line, but it was a madhouse, and new rules were coming down from above. Anybody who wanted anymore than 1 autograph from Earl would have to spend 45 bucks in the store. This then changed to 30 bucks- but with fans still murmuring about the change of policy so suddenly, this then finally changed to a custom Earl Kickin It t-shirt. At that point Jeff and I decided we had enough and called it a day.
A few nitpicks of how the event was run by Kickin It. First, they should’ve issued wristbands. This would’ve fixed quite a few things. It would’ve allowed fans to not have to stay in line for hours, perhaps encouraging us to look around the store. It also would’ve discouraged SHILs. Look I was doing it to some degree waiting for Jeff, but the guy at the front of the line- who is a reseller, held the line for his entire family that showed up 15-20 minutes before the event- much to the chagrin of everybody behind him.
Secondly, Kickin It actually discouraged fans from walking around the store by telling them they’d lose their place in line if they decided to come in and browse around or try to warm up. I mean that just made no sense. Again, probably the wristbands would’ve nipped this in the bud.
Third and finally, there was no rules in place before the event posted. Autographs- yes. Great. Now tell people exactly what the rules are. Don’t tell people after its started you have to spend xx amount of money. That should’ve been decided on beforehand.
I really like the Panini Contenders 2016 card he signed. That was the top top of my list. The Panini UT card wasn’t bad either. It’s a fine shot of him with great shadows. I am not a super fan of the Valor card, it was a distant 4th, but I decided to keep it anyway as a vanity piece. A lot of people really like Valor and year I am OK with it in general, but it is not the default I go to get signed. Anyway, overall, I somehow managed to get Earl on a few items, which I am happy about- despite the circus.
I failed on Earl back in 2017 when he signed a spate of TTM requests. I may have cast too much shade unknowingly because I joked about how he always had his best games against the Cowboys- which I later found out has been his favorite team since he was growing up.