Meet 6’1, Annie Thomas, former University of Wisconsin women’s basketball star. While excelling on the Badgers court, Thomas just happen to meet a certain student athlete that she now calls her husband. “I started playing basketball in 5th grade and was super lanky and kind of clumsy until things clicked just before high school. Basketball was a way for me to stand out besides just being tall and I took the scholarship to Wisconsin. I’d have to say I went to the best school in the country.”
Looking back we know that Thomas ended up at UW not only to be the “queen of the court,” but to meet the love of her life, 8 time Pro Bowl tackle, Joe Thomas. Marrying the No.3 Cleveland draft pick came pretty naturally for the mutually athletic Badger bred couple.
Now we all know that Mrs. #73 can be found on more than just the Brown’s turf but also on the basketball court. This NFL wife was a three-time Academic All-Big 10 selection. Annie has also continued on to be a radio color analyst for Wisconsin women’s basketball home games and was an assistant coach of the Cleveland State University women’s squad.
In addition to having a sports state of mind, the Thomas family has passion for the outdoors. Both Annie and “Catfish” Joe can be found at their farm in the sticks of Southwest Wisconsin hunting and fishing.
Theresa Villano, of Pro Player Insiders, caught up with this NFL Woman of the Month to talk a little Browns football, being a mom, her love of the outdoors, and basketball life. But most importantly this competitive couple reveals if Annie can beat her All Pro husband 1 on 1- in the paint.
Pro Player Insiders: You’re a nine year NFL vet, wait, let me rephrase. You’re nine year Dawg Pound wife, Mrs. #73 (same thing). What has been going on in your ninth offseason? Any cabin trips or highlights?
Annie Thomas: Every offseason has been so incredible in it’s own way. The football season starts mid to late July so when their time off starts we try and pack in as much fun and time together as a family as we possibly can. We have an 8 month old and a 2 year old so this offseason was all about them. We baptized our baby girl Camryn and celebrated our other daughter Logan’s 2nd birthday. We love getting back to Wisconsin to recharge with no phones/computers/cable, just us.
PPI: Right out of the gate, we must ask if you are always the tallest woman in the room at 6 foot 1? Do you wear heels often? Wow, Joe must love tall athletic ladies.
AT: Being tall was not always fun. I was this height in 8th grade. But once I got to college I was surrounded by other tall women in my teammates and obviously Joe is a tall guy so I get to wear heels all the time now. I’m now back to being the tallest women in the room.I miss my college teammates dearly.
PPI: With your height came your basketball career. Tell us a little bit about how you fell in love with basketball and got recruited to play at University of Wisconsin.
AT: I started playing basketball in 5th grade and was super lanky and kind of clumsy until things clicked just before high school. I really loved it because it was a way for me to stand out besides just being tall. I was recruited by a few schools but really looked at going to Marquette, Pepperdine and Wisconsin. My recruiting trip to Wisconsin sealed the deal.I know everyone says this about their alma mater but it’s the best school in the country. My time there was amazing and I wouldn’t trade it for anything! And its where Joe and I met.
PPI: After your time in Wisconsin, life took you to Cleveland with Joe. What is life like in Cleveland and with the Brown’s organization?
AT: The year Joe was drafted was a blur; we got engaged, he was drafted, moved to Cleveland, I graduated and we got married. It was an epic 7 months! We were thrilled to be heading to Cleveland, we wanted to stay in the Midwest and be somewhat close to family and friends. Cleveland is where we started our life as a married couple and now where we are raising our family! Besides it being home to the best fans in the NFL it really is a special place to us as a couple.
PPI: Last season, your husbands job was directly affected by the Cleveland Browns starting three different players at quarterback in Brian Hoyer, Johnny Manziel, and Connor Shaw, en route to a 7–9 record. What are your hoped for the Browns 2015-’16 season?
AT: My husband’s job is protecting the quarterback and when you play a season with multiple QBS that makes his job that much harder. I’m a nervous wreck during Joe’s games and when I know that things are being changed up on him I can barely watch. My hopes for this upcoming season are consistency for him and obviously to WIN. Joe HATES losing, HATES HATES HATES losing!! These guys sacrifice their bodies every week and to come away from a game with a win takes the sting out of the bumps and bruises (that’s putting it lightly).
PPI: Joe has been to the Pro Bowl 8 times and is entering his ninth year. With that being said you have to have a favorite moment in his career thus far. Please tell.
AT: We have been so beyond thrilled every time Joe has gotten the call saying he made the Pro Bowl. It is such an awesome experience and Joe is so incredibly honored every time he gets voted in. Seeing him out on the field playing a game that he loves with the greatest players in the NFL gives me chills and it’s something that I will remember for the rest of my life.
PPI: What does it mean to be a Browns wife and knowing your husband has so many fans? What was your most enjoyable part of being part of the organization?
AT: This town is a football town and I know it sounds cliche but the fans in Cleveland are the best in the league. They show up every Sunday and they love these guys more than anything! I’m still shocked when I see people wearing Joe’s jersey…it’s nuts to me. But the fans here have been so incredible to Joe and he wouldn’t want to play anywhere else.
Woman of the Month and Community Service…
PPI: We want to get to know you. Describe yourself in one sentence.
AT: Thats so hard… but I guess I would say, ‘I’m a loving mommy/sister/daughter/friend who loves to laugh…and I’m so insanely competitive that it’s annoying.’
PPI: How has playing basketball impacted your life? Did Joe know you as the basketball star?
AT: Basketball was and is such a positive thing in my life, the people that I’ve met and the places that I’ve gone playing that game is unreal! Joe and I met just before my senior year and he would come to my games squeezed into my jersey. It was hilarious but adorable. We would shoot around or play HORSE at the Kohl Center(where I played) after our practices…it was such a fun way to flirt and get to know each other. But it was embarrassing for him because I always beat him…he might say otherwise.
PPI: Tell me a little about your passions or projects you are working on outside of being a mom?
AT: I’m a mom first and foremost, my girls are my life but before I was a mom I volunteered at the local animal shelter. The APL (Animal Protective League) has my heart and I love everything about them. I now sit on the board and try and raise as much money as I possibly can for all of the amazing animals that come into our doors!!!
PPI: You and Joe do a lot in the Cleveland community. What have been some of the most gratifying projects you have worked on while living in Ohio.
AT: Joe and I have always made it our priority to defend those that can’t defend themselves. Animals and children fall into that category a lot of the time. So besides the APL we have gotten involved with The Providence House, a crisis Nursery here in Cleveland. To go down and see the day old babies to the 6 year olds that are staying at the Providence House while their moms deal with the issues in their lives that are keeping them from being the parent that they want to be, makes me so proud that Cleveland recognizes the need to help these families stay together.
PPI: Tell me about the role faith has played in your life.
AT: I think about how difficult this crazy world of the NFL would be if we didn’t have faith. Faith that God is going to keep Joe safe, faith that He will provide for our family, the list goes on and on. But our faith was never stronger than after the birth of our 1st daughter Logan. Holding her for the first time rocked our world and the prayers of thanks and the awe that we felt in the miracle of what had happened was really overwhelming.
PPI: What bible verse does the Thomas family love and live by?
AT: Our favorite verse is one thats on the back of Logan’s favorite bedtime book, Psalm 68:19. ” Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.” Knowing that God wants us to lift up our problems to him no matter how big or small is such an amazing lesson for all of us to learn, and I hope my girls are better at it than I am. Worry is such a difficult thing because its saying that you don’t trust that God is in control, he wants to take our worry and our pain from us and relinquishing control is really hard.
Your husband and Football…
PPI: How did you meet Mr. Joe Thomas? In the Badgers athletic facilities?
AT: The first time we met I was over at the football training room waiting to get rehab on a foot injury and the O-linemen were all sitting there getting taped up. I remember thinking that it was the most gigantic group of men I had ever seen!! We didn’t talk again until that next summer and he asked me out at a BBQ by inviting me out on his canoe. I thought it was cute and super dorky.
PPI: How many years have you been married? After that many years of marriage, you must tell us one thing people need to know about Joe? His nickname “Catfish” Joe because of his pure enthusiasm for fishing and the outdoors? His love for Cavs basketball games?
AT: This summer we will celebrate our 8th Anniversary! Something that people would never know about Joe is that he loves to watch the Bachelor/Bachelorette with me. We just discovered the show 3 seasons ago and we are addicted. And “Catfish” Joe is such an appropriate name for him…he would live outside if I let him. He grabs Logan right when he gets home and takes her out to our garden every day after practice.
PPI: We found out that you know Melissa and Andrew Whitworth of the Bengals. What is your relationship like? Why is Melissa such a big fan of yours ?
AT: We met the Whitworth’s at the NFLPA meetings a few years ago.She is a riot! We have friends all around the league (especially after a few coaching changes) but having Melissa to text/call/email is amazing. She understands what its like to watch the left tackle every single play,which not a lot of people do. But she is a great mommy friend too, from sleep schedules to nursing problems she has helped me more than she will ever know.
Dawg Pound Inspired Cleveland Favorites…
You live in Ohio during the season so we have to hit you with the PPI Cleveland FIRE 5:
1. Best Restaurant? This is such a tough one…. we have so many favorites but Crop, Fahrenheit and Domonic Santos are so good!
2. Favorite place to shop or take kids?
We spend so much time in the Metroparks, its the hidden gem of this city! We have 2 labs and they go wild when we get to the trails! Also we take some cute classes with the kids at the Lake Erie Nature Center
3. Go to tourist attraction for your visitors?
The Rock Hall of Fame is a must see but besides that Cleveland’s Food scene is unreal… there are so many amazing chefs that have started up restaurants here and its become a foodie destination!
4. Favorite current Browns player, besides Joe? Can I say the entire O-Line? They are the greatest group of guys and I love them all
5. Best thing about the Dawg Pound fans? They’re nuts, loud and they always show up to give the opposing team a run for their money
Being an NFL wife…
PPI: Nine years in the NFL is a long time. What was it like as a rookie wife in a new city and how has your life changed in the in the 9 years Joe has played?
AT: We moved to Cleveland at the age of 22 and 23.It was intimidating in every way. But we were so fortunate to have amazing teammates and a community that embraced us. We were kids and it was so much fun just being married and making new friends as we went along.
PPI: Has there been a fellow NFL wife you have looked up to or bonded with. If so, who? Tell me about her.
AT: Rachel McCoy whose husband Colt is a QB in DC now is a 1 of a kind type of person. She is one of my dearest friends and I love her to death. She has a faith that is so great and a real love for her friends and family. Colt played with Joe for 3 years and I miss her so much.
PPI: Is there a wife or family on the Browns you find yourself around a lot? We know about the Tuesday “Day off” couples dinners in the NFL, who do you guys go with?
AT: We tend to stick together as an O-line, but we have a few special teams couples that are so much fun to be with! Tank Carder’s wife Jessi is a good friend of mine, we both have 2 kids and she is such a good mom. And our punter Spencer and his fiancé Brittany are just the cutest couple.
PPI: Your daughters are a huge part of your life. Tell us a couple words to describe them. What are their interactions with their dad like? Are they Browns fans?
AT: They are delicious and I can’t get enough of them. Seeing life through the eyes of a 2 year old is precious. Logan is daddy’s shadow.She has a gardening hat just like him and loves to ride in the tractor with him when we are up at our farm. Cam is 8 months old and is Joe’s twin, she is an angel baby! Lolo says that daddy plays football and loves to talk about helmets and jerseys but she doesn’t really get what dad does.
PPI: What is the biggest stereotype about NFL wives that you have found to be “not true”?
AT: I guess I was nervous that the NFL wives would be pretentious or rich snobs, but we are all here just supporting our husbands. We sit in the stands praying that the men we love make it through each snap without injury and we are there to celebrate the wins and hold their hands through the loses.
While Annie is enjoying offseason, with a few hunting trips and pick up games, we are very confident she is eager to be back in the Dawg Pound stands for the 2015 season. Mrs. Thomas has high hopes for the season and wants the best fan in the league to feel the same. “This town is a football town and I know it sounds cliche but the fans in Cleveland are the best in the league. They show up every Sunday and they love these guys more than anything. My hopes for this upcoming season are consistency for Joe and the team. I want them to obviously to win. Joe hates, hates, hates losing,” and all of Cleveland does, too. So Ohio, is this the year to let the dawgs out? The Thomas family believes this is the year.
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