EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Michael Thomas didn't watch television last night. His cell phone was buzzing, but he chose to ignore it. Then he woke up this morning to find that dozens of people were trying to contact him.
"I had texts from everybody, from Colts players, to NFLPA, to teammates here, family back home, Stanford people, you see it all over Twitter," Thomas said. "So, first thing I do is reach out to my guy."
That would be Andrew Luck, Thomas' former high school rival, Stanford teammate and inseparable friend. The Indianapolis Colts quarterback announced his retirement last night at age 29. The news stunned almost everyone connected to the NFL, including players, coaches, reporters, and fans. But not Luck's inner circle, including Thomas.
"Not shocked," said Thomas, a special teams Pro Bowler last year who is beginning his second season with the Giants. "Not even that he's been talking about it. If he's making that decision, then it's the best decision. One hundred percent, 100 percent, that's my brother. I know exactly where he's at mentally and for him to make that decision, I support it 100 percent.
"To everybody else, I could see how it could be a shock, to get to wake up to that it was a shock. But once I realized and I reached out to him, it makes sense. Big picture, it wasn't a shock."
Thomas said he both texted and called Luck.
Thomas and Luck have known each other since they were 14-years-old. They faced each other as high school football 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."
They became friends when they attended at football camp at the University of Texas following their sophomore year.
"Our sophomore year, we were both on varsity, and for Texas high school football, that is rare," Thomas said. "It was kind of admiration at first, and then we saw each other in basketball season. It wasn't until that summer going to a UT football camp we were both there and we recognized each other. I was actually at receiver, and he was at quarterback, and he's throwing me passes and we are lighting it up. We kind of got a little bond there, and we said, 'We'll see you in the season' and we were both balling that year. It kind of took off from there. In our junior years, he was almost committed to Stanford and Stanford was recruiting me."
After playing wide receiver in high school, Thomas envisioned becoming Luck's top target in college. But soon after arriving on campus, then Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh moved him to the secondary. But that didn't diminish the two players' friendship.
"He is probably one of the most genuine people you have ever met, you find out he is one of the best teammates you could ask for," Thomas said. "Loving, caring, would call you on a random offseason day just to say hey. We've had some very real conversations, (he's) always supportive of you and vice versa, I have been very supportive of him. I understand where he's at right now and I wish him nothing but the best."
Thomas is entering his seventh NFL season. He has played against most of the league's very best quarterbacks and insists Luck is as good as any of them.
"He's one of the best to do it, especially in our era," Thomas said. "You are not going to look at Andrew and not respect his game, or not put him up there as one of the best quarterbacks up there. There are not too many things you can do to fool him. He takes risks but at the same time he tries to put his teams in the best situations. It's hard for you as a DB to anticipate things with him because he has all the perfect mechanics, looking you off and can put the ball anywhere he wants to put it. He had a hell of a career, a hell of a ride. You hate to see injuries, like with any position, you can think of many guys where if it wasn't for him getting hurt he could have been X, Y, and Z. I've got nothing but the best for his next chapter."
Although he played five years in the AFC for the Miami Dolphins, Thomas did not face Luck in a game until last Dec. 23, when the Giants visited Indianapolis.
"It was funny," he said. "We were talking in-between plays, commercial timeouts. He said the same thing, smiling, talking like, 'Shut up, Mike, you don't know the call.' It's funny, man. I'd say, 'I got you Andrew, throw me a pick, throw me a pick.' It's cool because how often can you say somebody you've known since you were a teenager and played with him in college, you're now getting a chance to play against him in the NFL, at the highest level?"
That sentiment was particularly poignant today after the announcement that Luck will play no more games.
"Absolutely, just to be able to say that you've done it," Thomas said. "There are so many other players across the league who I was either teammates with or knew of, played against in college, or I played against them in high school, or are from my same area, it's the same thing. So, nothing but respect."
Thomas is confident Luck is at peace with his decision.
"I think he'll be in a great place," Thomas said. "Whatever decision he makes, he won't say, 'Ah regrets, I miss it.' If he's made that decision, then he'll be in a great place."
*Giants coach Pat Shurmur was also asked today about Luck's abrupt departure from the NFL.
"I was a little surprised like anybody," Shurmur said. "I've always enjoyed watching him play. He's a tough, competitive guy. For whatever reason, he feels like he just can't go anymore. That's a tough decision to make. I don't know him well enough to comment beyond that, but I wish him well."
While Luck has dealt with a variety of injuries – he missed the entire 2017 season after undergoing shoulder surgery – Giants quarterback Eli Manning is entering his 16th season and has never missed a game because of injury.
"I think that's unique to Eli," Shurmur said. "I've been around a lot of quarterbacks that have had a few injuries, and some that had a lot, like Sam Bradford. Yeah, that's part of Eli's charm is that he can stay out there game after game. Being available and being able to play is huge."