Chris Paul, Liz Cambage, Brooks Koepka and NFL stars such as Michael Thomas and the Eagles offensive line are featured in ESPN's 2019 Body Issue. To see interviews, pictures, videos and more, visit our full 2019 gallery.
In just three years as a pro, Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas has completely changed his narrative -- from an undersized high school receiver with few college offers to the highest paid receiver in NFL history, to be exact. Just before he signed the $100 million extension that made history, Thomas posed for the 2019 Body Issue, and talked to ESPN about working with Drew Brees, the wide receivers he admires, and, yes -- speaking that big deal into existence.
What parts of your body are you most proud of?
I'm proud of my whole body after looking at these pictures.
You're famous for your hands and the exercises you do. Why is that important for your position?
I play wide receiver for a very great quarterback who's about his business. I don't take it for granted to be in the position that I'm in, to play receiver in the National Football League, to be in the conversation as one of the best to play the position. So I try to leave no stone unturned. I always have that thing in the back of my head that someone's working harder than me. I never wanted to let anyone work harder than me.
What are some of those things that fuel you?
I take doubters real personal. Some people might be like, "Oh, he's crazy. He takes it personal." But that's what's helping me be in the position that I'm in. That's what's got me to be the person I am. That's what's helped me win a lot of football games. I'm fueled by everything. I'm fueled by all of the opinions. Like, my ears work, and I hear what people are saying.
You mentioned your quarterback earlier -- what's it like to play with Drew Brees?
It's a blessing playing with the best quarterback in the NFL. And it's something that's allowed me to transition into the NFL at a very successful rate. Drew Brees is an example of a guy you want in a locker room. You want to get the job done for someone like that.
He's one of the league's shortest quarterbacks. How does the discrepancy between your body types affect your game?
I just want him to throw me the ball, and after that, I'll figure out the rest. Once you've had as much success as him and you're still out there and competing at a high level at his age, it's never his fault; I'll always take the blame if anything happens because I have so much respect for him.
What will it mean to you to sign the largest contract for a wide receiver in the NFL? [Thomas signed a $100 million extension in July.]
It's kind of crazy, because I wouldn't be lying to you if I told you that was my goal. Some people are afraid to shoot that high or set those types of goals or be that determined or that intentional in something. I'm very intentional. My plan was always to be the first $100 million receiver. All my steps, all my moves, the way I acted, the way I handled my business, the way I treat people. That's what it looks like to be the highest-paid receiver.
So you're clearly a very goal-oriented person. What are some of your goals for this coming season?
Play in the Super Bowl and win a championship. That's my main goal, that's my main focus. That's where all my decisions will lead to. So every decision I make, I'm thinking in the back of my head: Is it going to lead to where I want to be? I've come very close twice. I don't want to slip up again.
How has your body changed since you entered the NFL?
My whole body has changed. In college, you can't afford to get massages or see different trainers. Now I'm a full-time football player. It's like having a Ferrari and taking it to enhance it; taking care of your body, the things you eat, and identifying your weaknesses and strengths and enhancing your weaknesses is how I look at it.
What part of your body hurts the most the morning after a game?
Legs. We run so much. And it's every muscle -- from hamstrings to quads to calves.
What parts of your body do you use when you're making a contested catch?
I open my hands really, really big. I use my eyes. I feel like people sleep on that a lot. Your eyes are a big part of being a successful receiver. If the DB's watching you, he doesn't know what's going on or what's coming; he'll just watch you and watch your eyes, so you don't want to give away too much.
Define yourself as a wide receiver. We hear the categories -- big-bodied, slot, jump-ball guy. Name your job.
I play everything when it comes to receiver. I'm just a guy that's going to move the chains, a competitive receiver that plays with a lot of passion, plays with a lot of emotion, just wants to go out there and compete and beat the man across from him and score points. I like the big stage.
When you study wide receivers, who do you think you're most like?
I think I would be like Terrell Owens, Andre Johnson, a little bit of Torry Holt. Cris Carter, Randy Moss-like, his ball skills for sure. Larry Fitzgerald's another one. Those guys I really study a lot.
What message would you go back and tell your younger self about developing into the player and the physical presence you are now?
The simple word is discipline. You just have to have discipline. It's easier said than done. And it's a word you can just say without having to do anything. Anyone can say, "I'm disciplined." But you're going to get tested. And that's when you have to lock in. You have to know where you're going and be disciplined enough to get there.
You can't be a great player just sitting on the couch or just talking football or watching football, watching other people do stuff. You actually have to do the workouts. You have to be consistent. My dad was real big on fitness and health, and he instilled that in me early on. He would put equipment in our garages at our homes, and he would invest his money in equipment. He was helping me build my foundation and helping me understand what hard work gets you and how that work translates to the football field. And I've just stuck with it, because my dad's the one person that I would trust with anything. Any type of advice he's had, I kid you not, it's always worked, and it's always been a great experience.