Joseph Hayden Thomas (born December 4, 1984) is an American football offensive tackle for the Cleveland Browns of the National Football League. He played college football for the University of Wisconsin, earned unanimous All-American honors, and was recognized as the top college interior lineman. The Browns chose Thomas with the third overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, and he has been selected to the Pro Bowl every season since entering the NFL. Thomas did not miss a single play in his career until the 2017 season; his 10,363 consecutive snaps played is the longest streak since the NFL began recording snap counts in 1999.
Thomas was born in Brookfield, Wisconsin. His parents are Eric and Sally Thomas. He attended Brookfield Central High School, and played right tackle, defensive end, tight end, fullback, placekicker, and punter for the Brookfield Central Lancers high school football team. He was listed among the top 20 offensive tackles nationally, PrepStar All-American, second-team All-America offensive guard according to USA Today, member of the Detroit Free Press All-Midwest team, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel first-team all-state defensive lineman and second-team all-state offensive guard as a junior, and also received first-team all-state honors at defensive end from the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association (WFCA) and Associated Press. He was recognized as the WFCA 2002 Defensive Player of the Year. He had 85 tackles and 12 sacks as a senior. As a junior, he had 70 tackles and eight sacks. He was listed as the third best prospect in the state of Wisconsin in 2003. Aside from his athletic prowess, Thomas performed well academically. He was a four-year honor roll student and a part of the U.S. Army Academic All-America team and played in the 2003 U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
Regarded as a four-star recruit by Rivals.com, Thomas was ranked as the No. 18 offensive tackle prospect in the class of 2003. Wisconsin, Nebraska, Colorado, and Notre Dame vied for his recruitment before he signed his letter of intent to Wisconsin in January 2003.
Thomas enrolled in the University of Wisconsin, where he played for the Wisconsin Badgers football team from 2003 to 2006. As a true freshman in 2003 he mostly saw action as a blocking tight end. In 2004, he started all 12 games at left tackle, helping the Badgers' ground game with Anthony Davis and Matt Bernstein in the backfield.
In 2005, Barry Alvarez's final season, he started all 13 games at left tackle and was named a first-team All-American by Pro Football Weekly. He blocked for Brian Calhoun, who had an impressive year, racking up 1,500 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards. Thomas considered declaring for the 2006 NFL Draft, where he was projected among the top 15 picks (and projected as the second offensive lineman behind Virginia prospect D'Brickashaw Ferguson). The Badgers were invited to the Capital One Bowl against Auburn, where they prevailed 24–10. Unfortunately, Thomas tore his ACL playing defensive end because of injuries to other players at the position. The Badgers finished that season 10–3 with a #15 national ranking. Soon after the game, Thomas announced that he would be returning to Wisconsin for his final year.
His senior season in 2006 began with high expectations. As the offensive captain, he started all 13 games and blocked for P. J. Hill, Jr., who racked up over 1,500 yards on the ground. Following the regular season, Thomas won the Outland Trophy as the nation's top interior lineman, and he was recognized as a consensus first-team All-American. Thomas and the Badgers were again invited to the Capital One Bowl, this time against Arkansas. The Badgers prevailed 17–14 and finished the season 12–1, a school record for wins in a single season.
The Cleveland Browns drafted Thomas in the first round of the 2007 NFL Draft, third overall. Thomas spent the draft fishing on Lake Michigan with his father, father-in-law, and Joe Panos, who was also a standout offensive lineman at Wisconsin and is a former Brookfield resident. Thomas discovered he was drafted by the Browns via cell phone.
Thomas signed a six-year contract worth $43 million, $23 million guaranteed, including a voidable year, with the Browns. Thomas won the starting left tackle job, with previous Browns left tackle Kevin Shaffer moving to right tackle. He made his NFL debut versus the Pittsburgh Steelers in week 1 and played every offensive snap for the Browns in 2007. Thomas quickly became one of the top-performing members of the 2007 draft class and was named the NFL's Rookie of the Month for November. Thomas was selected to the 2008 Pro Bowl, replacing Jason Peters of the Buffalo Bills.
Thomas came in second in the voting for NFL Rookie of the Year. He was the only person to receive votes, besides the eventual winner, Adrian Peterson.
On August 22, 2011 Thomas and the Browns agreed to a record setting seven-year $84 million extension with $44 million guaranteed. The deal was negotiated by his agent Peter Schaffer and Matt Thomas and Tom Heckert of the Browns.
On December 27, 2011, Thomas was named to his fifth straight Pro Bowl since the Browns drafted him. Since 1970, Thomas and Richmond Webb of the Miami Dolphins are the only NFL offensive linemen to make the Pro Bowl in each of their first five seasons. Thomas and Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown are the only Browns players ever to be selected to the Pro Bowl for the first five seasons of their careers. Hall of Fame running back Leroy Kelly was the last Browns player to earn five or more consecutive invitations to the Pro Bowl.
On December 26, 2012, Thomas was named to his sixth straight Pro Bowl. Thomas joins a short list of only 15 players who have made the Pro Bowl in each of their first six seasons in NFL history.
On December 27, 2013, Thomas was voted to his seventh straight Pro Bowl selection. Thomas joins Hall of Famer Jim Brown as the only two Browns to make the Pro Bowl in their first seven seasons. Thomas on making his 7th straight Pro Bowl became one of only 11 players in NFL history to make it their first seven seasons.
On December 23, 2014, Thomas made NFL history, becoming the only offensive lineman to be named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first eight seasons.
On the NFL Network's Top 100 Players of 2014, Thomas was voted the 18th best player overall in the league by his peers.
At the end of the 2015 season, Thomas was named the recipient of Pro Football Focus's Bruce Matthews Award for best offensive lineman in the league. He was ranked 23rd on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2016.
Thomas kept his Pro Bowl streak alive in 2016 being named to his 10th straight Pro Bowl, despite the Browns finishing with a league worst 1–15 record. He was also ranked 25th by his peers on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2017
On Sunday, September 17, 2017, Thomas played his 10,000th consecutive snap since being drafted into the NFL, having never missed a single play. He is the first player to reach the milestone in NFL history. Thomas' iron man consecutive snap streak ended at 10,363 on October 22, 2017, when he injured his triceps while blocking the Tennessee Titans' Brian Orakpo. The next day, it was revealed that he suffered a torn triceps in his left arm, which prematurely ended his 2017 season as he was placed on injured reserve. On November 4, the Browns gave Thomas a raise in pay.