Patriots' Thomas, Giants' Tuck each representing same part of rural Alabama

Glen Farley

It won’t be a matter of family ties.

The way New England Patriots outside linebacker Adalius Thomas looks at it, where he and New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck are concerned, next Sunday one family will win; the other family will lose.

After all, there’s no tying in the Super Bowl.

But it’s not as if Thomas and Tuck will be playing the “Family Feud” next Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

“It’s not like we play against each other,” Thomas said. “Both of us are on defense. So I think it will be a little different than if he was a running back or a wide receiver or something like that.”

Each of them graduated from Central Coosa High School in Rockford, Ala., home of the Cougars.

“We went to the same high school,” Thomas said. “I think our parents went to school together. Small town -- most of the neighbors are aunts or uncles or your grandparents.”

It’s all relative to Thomas and Tuck, whose fathers (Adonis and Jimmy, respectively) are first cousins.

To hear one of them talk, life is rather simple back home in Equality and Kellyton, the Alabama communities where the Thomases and the Tucks still make their homes. 

“His sister (Brittany) is in a class with my sister (Ashia) now. I think that’s right,” Thomas said. “I know Justin very well. We grew up together. He went to church down the street from where I went to church. I talked to him this week.

“Where I’m from, they’re calling it the ‘Coosa County Bowl’ instead of the Super Bowl. It’s so funny, though, two guys from the same area, which is a very rural part of Alabama, playing in the Super Bowl. So one family will be happy and one family will be kind of sad.”

Certainly, Thomas and Tuck can lay claim to hailing from Central Coosa’s “first family of football.”

Each player’s football jersey was retired by the school. Each player contributed to state basketball championships for the Cougars: Thomas in 1995, when he was named Alabama’s Class 4A Player of the Year; Tuck in 2000 and 2001.

“I don’t have any regrets,” Thomas said. “That’s one thing you can’t choose is your parents or where they live. I think it’s a great motivation or encouragement for the kids that are from rural areas, small areas that nobody really knows where I’m from. It goes back to the old cliche’: ‘It’s not where you’re from, it’s where you go.’

“I think me and Justin are just two prime examples of guys that came from middle-class families that worked hard. But one thing that both of us really had was great support from our parents – his parents as well as my parents. I think that just goes to show a lot about the character that he has and I have as well.”

Salary wise, the two players also reside in the same neighborhood.

A five-year, $35.04 million free-agent contract brought Thomas from Baltimore to New England in March of 2007. Tuck recently signed a five-year, $30 million contract extension that will keep him in New York through 2013.

Funny, but in a recent edition of “Serby’s Sunday Q&A With…,” Tuck told the New York Post’s Steve Serby that Thomas actually gave him second thoughts about making a living this way.

“I’ve seen hits that he had on guys,” Tuck said. “It was just like, ‘Wow! Do I want to play football?’”

In his third NFL season (all with the Giants), Tuck laid a few hits on foes, ranking sixth on the team in tackles during the regular season with 58 and second to end Osi Umenyiora in sacks with 10. With 13 tackles in the postseason, Tuck currently ranks fifth on the team.

In his eighth NFL season (his first with the Patriots), Thomas ranked third on the team in tackles during the regular season with 82. He has registered just four tackles in the postseason, however.

After seven seasons in Baltimore, Thomas admits this year has been a learning experience for him.

That has actually played itself out on the field where, in spite of his tackle total, Thomas failed to play at the level he did only a year ago in earning a berth as a Pro Bowl starter with the Ravens. Defenders of Thomas will point out that his task this year was made more difficult by the fact that he began the season starting at inside linebacker, then was forced to start outside when Rosevelt Colvin went down for the season with a foot injury late in November.

“I knew it was going to be a learning experience because you come into a new system, new players, new environment, it’s always a learning experience, learning how things work on and off the field,” Thomas said. “So it’s just been a learning experience and I continue to learn. Just learning from the guys like Junior (Seau) and Tedy (Bruschi) and ‘Vrabes’ (Mike Vrabel), those guys really showed me the way so I continue to lean on (them).”

The Enterprise