Philly's new guy living 'dream'

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:36 AM ET

Jeff Thomason was scheduled to have his hands full yesterday meeting with sub contractors, sales teams and potential homebuyers.

Instead, the reborn Philadelphia Eagles tight end had his mouth full talking football rather than floorplans.

By now, the sporting world is well aware of Thomason's tale, a real-life Rocky from the city that spawned the movie hero. Eight days earlier, he had been plucked off of a construction site in suburban Philly, trading in a hardhat and blueprints for a helmet and playbook.

An emergency replacement for the injured Chad Lewis, Thomason got vacation time from his employer and resumed a career he thought had ended two years ago.

"It's a dream come true," Thomason said yesterday at Super Bowl Media Day, gazing up at the empty blue seats of Alltel Stadium and shaking his head for the umpteenth time.

"How many guys sitting at their desk get a call to come play in the Super Bowl? I'm the luckiest guy in the world."

Unlike the pugilist played by Sylvester Stallone, Thomason isn't likely to deliver a knockout blow for the Eagles, who are seven-point underdogs to the New England Patriots.

In his 10-year pro career, he caught all of 67 passes, though there was a Super Bowl ring in Green Bay eight years ago and eight of his 28 Eagles' catches were for touchdowns.

Realistically, Thomason will see spot duty against the Patriots on Sunday, which is fine by him.

After retiring two years ago, Thomason saw how the rest of the world lived. While he never struck it rich in his pro career, he was gainfully employed and made good money.

"It's a great life," he said. "Getting out and finding a job was a real eye-opener for me."

Fortunately, when the Eagles came calling on the advice of Lewis, Thomason had kept in shape, competing as an amateur triathlete.

And fortunately, when he showed up at practice that Monday afternoon, he caught every one of the passes thrown his way by tight ends coach Tom Melvin.

After his co-workers had dusted off their disbelief -- "I nearly fell out of my chair when he asked for two weeks off," one boss said -- they went crazy with enthusiasm.

The media descended on the eight-man office in Chesterfield, N.J., and suddenly the luxury homebuilder was in the spotlight.

"I got a phone call from (company president) Bob Toll about a week and a half ago and he said 'we have a new clause for employees saying that if you are in the NBA Finals, the World Series or the Super Bowl, you get an additional two weeks,' " Thomason joked.

As a project manager for Toll Brothers, Thomason helps sell homes, ensures contractors are meeting deadlines and that home buyers are happy.

"People I was out there showing homes to, a lot of them didn't have a clue I had played in the NFL," Thomason said.

That reality has brought with it both some perks and some pain.

For example, he gets just one pair of tickets to the big game.

"It's more than I had two weeks ago," he said.

The pain comes from the thighs and hamstrings not accustomed to the explosive bursts required to play his position.

It is for the latter reason that, at age 35, Thomason has no illusions that this week will lead to a rebirth of his career.

"I don't know if I have 16 games in my body, but I've definitely got one," Thomason said.

"A week from now I'll be back at my desk tripping out looking back on this week."


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