Seahawks safety Earl Thomas posted a fast time in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine in 2010. But the fact he ran it again later helps explain why he became an All Pro.

Share story

The thing about Seahawks safety Earl Thomas is that he approaches football like a maniac. This is not disputed.

Here is Seahawks defensive back DeShawn Shead on Thomas’s focus at practice: “I’ve never seen nothing like that before.”

Or from former Seahawks corner Byron Maxwell: “I’ve never seen anybody else like that. It’s crazy how he gets like that every day.”

And here is Thomas himself: “I’m an ass during practice just because I push my teammates.”

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

I bring this up as a way of backing into an Earl Thomas story that predates his tenure with the Seahawks and is from around this time six years ago. There are many obsessive stories about Thomas that have become part of his legend — my personal favorite is the time he slept on the locker room floor after he overslept for a team meeting in college just to make sure he wouldn’t be late again — but this story comes close to summing up Thomas as a player.

In 2010, before the draft, Thomas ran the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine in 4.43 seconds. A perfectly fast time for a safety. I’ll turn the rest of the story over to Duane Akina, Thomas’ position coach at Texas:

“Everybody was telling him not to run again at his pro day because the 4.43 would stand up,” Akina said. “But I knew he’d run again just because it was a chance to compete in front of everybody. And sure enough he ran a 4.37 down here at our place.”

The Seahawks have tried to find players who can compete every day against guys like Thomas, who can withstand and thrive in that intensity. As general manager John Schneider said a couple years ago, “How would he compete in the locker room? That’s something we’ve really focused on because this is such a young, competitive group.”

Competitiveness often gets talked about in abstract ways. But the story of Thomas at the combine is a perfect example of the very traits that have made Thomas a six-year starter and All-Pro in Seattle.

“Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of really good ones,” Akina said, “but he just separates himself because of that drive to be the best ever.”