Saints WR Michael Thomas’ Burning Desire for Greatness is What Makes Him #1

Photo courtesy of the New Orleans Saints, YouTube

There’s sort of a running and underlying joke among NFL fans on the social media website Twitter, that if you really want to provoke or get a response out of soon-to-be 5th year veteran New Orleans Saints All-Pro WR Michael Thomas, the only thing that you need to do is to tell him that he CAN’T do something.

Many Who Dat fans are likely aware by now of the much-publicized Twitter “beef” or war of words between Thomas and Miami Dolphins WR Devante Parker, which many fans from other fan-bases saw as arrogance on the part of the Saints’ top pass-catcher. But coming from those who know him best, Thomas’ actions aren’t about being “cocky” or arrogant — but rather a direct reflection of his burning desire to become the greatest and #1  player at his position in the entire NFL.

Given his notable performance last season that saw him lead the League in receiving yardage (1,725) and also break the NFL record for most receptions in a single season ever (149), a strong argument could be made that the 27-year old superstar has already achieved that status.

Photo by: Chris Taylor,

But yet the team’s 2nd Round draft pick from the 2016 NFL Draft out of Ohio State University, is driven to achieve an even higher degree of success in the upcoming season ahead, and well into the future beyond that.

In fact, Thomas’ unquenchable thirst to consistently achieve optimal and peak performance has drawn comparisons to a legend from another sport, in retired 6-time Chicago Bulls and NBA champion Micheal Jordan — who as it was highlighted during ESPN’s recent 10-part documentary series “The Last Dance” which concluded last week, was absolutely RELENTLESS in his pursuit of greatness and becoming the very best player in that sport.

Michael Thomas has that exact same mind-set that Jordan did, and it’s what appears to give him an “edge” to excel that some other players throughout the League at the WR position. may not take quite nearly with the same level of seriousness as he does.

According to sports psychology experts at the prestigious British learning institution Stonebridge College, this never-ending drive for accomplishment comes from self-discipline and pushing and pushing that little bit harder until the athlete becomes the absolute best in their field.

Additionally, they note that whether it’s skiing, tennis, basketball, swimming or track & field (or in the instance of Thomas, the sport of Pro Football specifically), the formula for success is the same: the dedication and desire to be the best are key components to becoming the number one player in that sport.

I’ll leave all of the detailed psycho-analysis and related mumble-jumble for the psychology fans among our readers, in that Link highlighted right above if you’re further interested — about looking into the very deepest and darkest recesses of the human mind of an elite-caliber athlete; who is hell-bent on achieving greatness on an unparalleled level.

That said, Stonebridge and several other well-respected individual sports psychologists seem to agree in unison that the passion or the “burning desire” for any athlete to always want to be the very best, is a trait that someone such as Michael Thomas has developed ever since the very earliest days of his youth.

From my own personal point of view regarding this particular topic, I can only say this:

I’m not necessarily the beat writer / reporter that you go to for the very latest-breaking Saints news from outstanding  journalists such as Mike Triplett of ESPN, Luke Johnson of the New Orleans Advocate, or John Hendrix of the Saints News Network / Sports Illustrated .

And I’m definitely not the Saints writer that you expect or always “go to” in order to get in-depth and detailed game-film analysis. from experts like the one and only Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.Football or Deuce Windham of the Athletic New Orleans.

Nor am I the guy that you’d think of first when you want to get the very latest analysis of the college football recruiting process and the NFL Draft, from someone who is the very best in the business in that regard like the iconic, locally Louisiana-based writing and broadcasting legend Mike Detillier of WWL New Orleans / Saints News Network.

But one thing that I do have in my favor is that I’ve got nearly 50 years of observing and now covering the sport of Pro Football under my belt — and I KNOW greatness / a great NFL player when I actually see one.

Is Michael Thomas the GREATEST NFL wide receiver that I’ve ever seen?

No he isn’t — especially considering I came up during an era of prolific NFL wide receivers such as John Stallworth, Lynn Swann, Drew Pearson, Cliff Branch, Harold Jackson, Steve Largent, Wes Chandler, Art Monk, and eventually Jerry Rice (yeah, I’m a lot older than most folks actually think).

But he’s certainly one of the best WR’s of this current NFL era, and anyone who honestly believes that he isn’t at least within the Top 3 pass-catchers in the ENTIRE LEAGUE right now are simply kidding themselves, and embarrassingly so (I’ll leave it up to fans to argue over where Thomas, Deandre Hopkins, and Julio Jones should each be ranked).

Yesterday, a die-hard (and older age-wise) Saints fan who follows me on Facebook, asked me in a private message if there was a receiver from previous Saints history who Michael Thomas personally reminds me of, and I told him it was late 1980’s / early 1990’s star Eric Martin.

Photo Credit: George Rose via AFP / Getty Images

“Eric Martin?”, he replied in somewhat disbelief. “Why so?” he wondered.

As I told him, the reason is that while Eric Martin definitely WASN’T the fastest or most athletically-gifted WR that you’d ever saw, the one thing that you could depend or consistently count on happening, was that he was going to CATCH ANYTHING that came his way.

And even if opposing defensive backs KNEW well in advance that the Saints were going to throw the ball his way in crucial 3rd Down situations, they still could not stop Martin from making the catch and getting / converting the 1st down.That is the very same thing that I think of now whenever Michael Thomas is out on the field.

Believe this much: the nickname “Can’t Guard Mike” (also his Twitter handle) is a very appropriate one.

Photo by: Chris Taylor,

So for all of those on Twitter within the last few days who unmercilessly have criticized Thomas for his so-called feud with Devante Parker, let’s give him a break.

Michael Thomas undoubtedly possesses a quality that many of today’s pampered and overpaid professional athletes don’t always care to fully embrace — which is the burning desire to become the greatest and #1  player at his position in the entire NFL…

Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked previously as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending their games as a young boy during the early 1970’s, uptown at the old Tulane Stadium. He is also the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryHirstius

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