Pierre Thomas is an incredible story. As an undrafted free agent who makes less than $400,000 a year, he will probably be the top running back for what was the No. 1 offense in the NFL last season. He averaged almost five yards a carry, yet no one nationally knows anything about him.
If I did a feature story on Thomas, I would want to focus on how he went from an unknown free agent to a pivotal performer for the Saints, gaining more yards last year than No. 2 overall pick Reggie Bush and the franchise’s all-time leading rusher, Deuce McAllister.
Physically and mentally, what did he do to distinguish himself from all the undrafted players who never make an NFL team?
My questions would be dictated by his answers to an extent. If you go in with too rigid a concept, you can miss an emerging angle.
But here are some of the questions I would anticipate asking.
1) You have said Emmitt Smith and Barry Sanders were your idols growing up. If you could take one ingredient each of them had, what would it be?
2) Eighteen running backs were taken in the 2007 draft. You weren’t one of them. How much does that fuel your fire?
3) As an undrafted free agent, did you envision yourself as the feature running back for the Saints when you signed? Other than making the team, what were your career goals?
4) Why did you pick New Orleans?
5) Why did you never gain 1,000 yards in college at Illinois? You are the sixth-leading rusher in school history, but your best year was 893 yards. What held you back?
6) Illinois was 8-38 in your four playing years there. The Saints have missed the playoffs in both of your NFL seasons. How hungry are you to be on a winning team?
7) The Saints kept you over their fourth-round draft pick in 2007, Antonio Pittman. What did you do from the day your senior season ended until the first day of practice with the Saints as a rookie? You knew you had to make a good first impression to have any chance of making the team.
8) You have to be mentally tough to beat the odds. Where did you get that mental toughness?
9) How would you grade yourself for last year?
10) You have gained 10 pounds in the offseason and are up to about 225. You also increased your squats to 675 pounds. What was your training technique?
11) You had the fewest percentage of negative plays of any running back in the NFL according to STATS, LLC—six carries for losses out of 129. How significant is that stat to you? Does that indicate you can be the physical runner the coaching staff is looking for?
12) You have said you and a friend used an unusual technique to get stronger in the legs—pushing a 1991 Dodge Dynasty car around in your neighborhood. How old were you, who came up with the idea, and how often did you do it?
13) What is your best asset on the field?
14) Who is your biggest influence?
15) The Saints have talked about picking up a free agent at running back. You’ve talked about welcoming the challenge, but would that be a slap in the face to you?
16) How do you and Reggie Bush complement each other?
Then there are the personal interest questions. They might elicit nothing worthwhile, but you never know.
What kind of car do you drive? I'm guessing not a 1991 Dodge Dynasty.
What was your first big purchase after signing with the Saints?
What CD are you currently listening to?
What’s your favorite sports movie?
What’s your favorite food?
What’s your favorite restaurant?
What’s your favorite NFL city outside of New Orleans and Chicago, your hometown?
What is something you loved in Chicago you absolutely cannot get in New Orleans?