Thomason wearing helmet instead of hard hat

Terrell Owens isn't the only Philadelphia Eagle making an amazing comeback for Sunday's Super Bowl.

Former Packers tight end Jeff Thomason was retired and was immersed in his second life, project manager for a New Jersey construction company, when he received a phone call that must have seemed more like a prank call than a serious invitation.

"Monday morning (Jan. 24, one day after the NFC championship game) at about 10 o'clock, Chad Lewis called and he mentioned how he broke his foot. And then (Eagles teammate) Mike Bartrum called about an hour later. They both said they were going to go in and campaign and try to get a job for me. So the whole morning was awash.

"I was kind of in a cloud the whole morning. So at about 1, the Eagles called and said, ‘Why don't you come in and run around and try to catch some balls to see if you can still do it?' Luckily, I could. It's been like a dream come true. How many guys can be sitting at their desk and get a phone call from someone saying, ‘Hey, why don't you come play in the Super Bowl?'"

Thus, more than two years after his career seemingly ended when his Eagles lost the NFC championship game to Tampa Bay, Thomason was back in the game.

Thomason, who caught 38 passes and scored three touchdowns while in Green Bay from 1995-99, was stunned, and so was his family.

"I had to tell them twice," he said. "They couldn't comprehend it. My wife couldn't stop screaming."

Thomason got his shot when Lewis broke his foot when catching the clinching touchdown pass in the NFC title game against the Falcons. Thomason, who competes in triathlons, had the advantage of being in shape and knowing the offense, since the Eagles run a variation of the Packers' West Coast offense.

When he was with the Packers, playing behind the likes of Mark Chmura and Keith Jackson, Thomason was like the Invisible Man at the circus known as Media Day. This week, however, Thomason's hard hat-to-helmet story made him a prized attraction.

"I was trying to get somebody to talk to me the first two times," Thomason said.

This time, however, Thomason was featured by newspapers from coast to coast and television programs from morning ("Today") to night ("60 Minutes Wednesday.")

"Things have changed for me a little bit," Thomason said.

Thomason willingly admits he's a lucky man. The man who invoked the name of Lou Gehrig, who famously said, "Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth," however, was the injured Lewis.

"I feel lucky," said Lewis, who named his newborn son after Thomason. "I feel like Lou Gehrig. I'm the luckiest man to be alive. I feel sustained by the love of my family, the prayers of my friends, and I haven't had one down moment since I broke my foot."

"I'm just so honored that I had a part in helping the Eagles to get here," Lewis continued. "It's been a long time. We had lost the last three NFC championship games, and two of those were at home. So to be able to have a good game, to score two touchdowns, that was my Super Bowl."

It will be Thomason, however, who will play in the Super Bowl. He said he expected to play about 15 snaps, mostly when the Eagles use a second tight end or on special teams.

Not a bad way to spend his vacation. Not a bad paycheck, either: He will make $68,000 if the Eagles win and $36,500 if they lose.

"This is my swan song. A week from now, I'll be back at my desk wondering if it was a dream," Thomason said, adding. "I go back to my desk and sit there and zone off and wonder what happened to me over the last two weeks."

Quotes from this story came from Newsday, the Denver Post and Albany Times Union.


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