EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Michael Thomas and Josh Mauro not only will play a football game Sunday in Lucas Oil Stadium, they will have a college reunion.
When the Giants visit Indianapolis, Thomas and Mauro will face Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, their close friend and former Stanford teammate. It will be the first time either player faces Luck in the NFL.
"That's my guy," Thomas said this week. "He's one of the best friends you can have, one of the best brothers you can have, best teammates you can have, and he's humble. He works hard and I'm looking forward to competing against him at this level. We have a great relationship. That's my brother."
"He's a special teammate and a special person," Mauro said. "But we're going to try to get after him this week."
They'll each have their opportunity. Mauro is a defensive lineman who would love to take down Luck for his second sack of the season. If it happens, will he have words for the Colts' QB?
"Even if I just hit him, I'm going to say something to him," Mauro said. "But the thing with Luck is, after being his teammate for three years and then watching him after, he doesn't really get rattled. So you can say whatever to him, you can hit him all you want. He's a really tough quarterback and he's just going to keep doing his thing and bounce back. It'll be fun. I'll try to get back there to say something to him, but it'll be pretty hard to knock him off his game."
Thomas, a starting safety since Landon Collins suffered a season-ending shoulder injury, hopes to victimize their friend for his third interception of the season.
"It's going to be fun," Thomas said. "Josh and I talk about it all the time. Going against somebody who you grinded with in college and to see him have success and now getting the chance to play against him, it's going to be fun. We competed against you in college, now we get to do it at the highest level."
Thomas and Luck first faced each other as high school opponents in Houston, the former at Nimitz High School in Houston, the latter at Stratford.
"I went 2-2 against his high school," Thomas said. "He was a special player. He had the size, the potential. His dad, Oliver Luck, played in the league, but he was humble, he worked, he could make every throw and he was athletic. It was crazy seeing him every time he threw an interception, he'd always come up and smack the safety or linebacker, whoever would catch the interception. He forced a bunch of fumbles doing that, so he's an athlete, man."
Thomas and Luck arrived at Stanford together in 2008. Mauro, who also played high school football in Texas, but in Dallas, joined them a year later, when he redshirted.
The three players were teammates on Stanford teams that were a combined 32-8 from 2009-11, including 12-1 in their final season together. After their collegiate careers, Thomas and Mauro entered the NFL as rookie free agents; both were waived by their original teams before playing a game. Luck finished second in the 2011 Heisman Trophy voting and was the first overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft.
"Amazing teammate for a guy who pretty much knew for two or three years that he was going to end up being the number one overall pick," Mauro said. "He's the epitome of a humble teammate, hard-working; never, ever played the celebrity card or an entitlement card. He worked. He wanted to work, he wanted to be the one doing the most and from a defensive lineman or someone outside of the offense, outside of that quarterback room, you have a lot of respect for a quarterback when he's the one pushing people in lifts and runs and conditioning and extra things. From that standpoint, he's a pretty special teammate, special person. But like I said, we're going to try to get after him this week."
"He never ceased to amaze," Thomas said. "You think, 'No way he can do something that impressive again, no way he can get better.' Then you see him make a throw in the game and you're like, 'How did he even see that, how did he get the ball there,' so you knew he was going to be special."
Thomas was either on the practice squad or injured when his San Francisco or Miami teams faced Luck. Mauro's Cardinals played the Colts in 2017, but Luck missed the entire season with a shoulder injury. On Sunday, they will finally be together on the same field.
"I watched him play the Bills, and Trent Murphy, who went to school with us as well, had his hands on him and almost got him a few weeks ago," Mauro said. "It'll be cool if I'm able to get to him, get back there before he passes the ball. But he's a really smart player. He's very athletic, more athletic than people think. He can make all the throws on the field.
"I've said it before, from a personal standpoint, I'm really happy for him to bounce back from the injury like he did. Obviously, now, from a competitive standpoint, I hope we just thrash him. But I am happy to see him bounce back, perform at the level he's capable of and he's a challenge for the opposing team."
Thomas and Mauro will be part of a Giants defense looking to mitigate Luck's impact on the game.
"I'm glad to see he's not in pain anymore," Thomas said. "It looks like he's having fun this year.
"We speak on a regular basis. We're definitely going to talk (on the field), but not talk, you know what I'm saying. That's what we do. We competed against each other, tried to make each other better in college. Now it's at the biggest stage."
Even in the hyper-competitive NFL, they'll all find a way to enjoy the occasion.