PHILADELPHIA – A February 2015 article in Forbes discussed five key reasons why 80 percent of former NFL players go broke after football. The piece is based off a recent estimation bySports Illustrated that retired players find themselves bankrupt within “their first three years out of the League.”
One of the reasons was the lack of preparation for finding and succeeding in a second career. With a median income of roughly $750,000 per year and the average career length less than four years, most NFL players can not rely on their football earnings to last them the rest of their lives.
Former Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Hollis Thomas has made the transition from the football field to the microphone in 2011, taking a job in sports radio atPhiladelphia’s 94 WIP.
Thomas learned the importance of job and financial security in 1996 when he went undrafted out of Northern Illinois University, a mid-major school. He signed with the Eagles as an undrafted free agent and became a major part of the defense for the next 10 years.
“I ended up playing 14 years then I got an opportunity to go on some bigs shows like ESPN First Take when it still called Pardon the Interruption, I did a few episodes with them in New York,” Thomas said. “I got to do the Jim Rome Show a couple times, and that was pretty cool.”
Thomas said joining the media wasn’t really on his radar until later in his playing career.
“As I started playing a little bit more, and becoming friendlier with the media, it was something I figured I would get into, something I wanted to do,” Thomas said. “I started doing Inside the Eagles, it was my second or third year, I got better and better at that, and I was like ‘This is something I could do when I’m done playing.’
Originally from St. Louis, Thomas grew up a baseball and basketball fan but had to do some “recon work” on other sports like hockey upon getting hired by WIP.
“Just had to get into hockey a little bit,” Thomas said. “I always went to hockey games to see the fights so I had to learn what was going on like the point system and the playoffs and the damn shootout that the Flyers can’t win in.”
Along with gathering some hockey knowledge, Thomas said it was a challenge to put down his locker room lexicon and become broadcast friendly.
“It was kinda like I was freshman all over again, learning what I could say and the no-no cha-cha words, like you can’t say douchebag, you can say douche but you can’t say douchebag on the radio,” Thomas said. “Some opinions, like some of those manly opinions, are best left to yourself.”
Currently, Thomas works on weekend afternoons with Rob Charry and frequently appears on the WIP Morning Show with Angelo Cataldi, mainly on Thursdays and Fridays.
“I don’t have to talk as much on the morning show because Angelo [Cataldi] does most of the talking and I just fill in where needed,” Thomas said.
With Phillies baseball coming back to the WIP airwaves, Thomas said his weekend shifts get a little shorter, something he’s looking forward to.
“On the weekends with Rob [Charry], it’s just me and him so you can’t leave a lull in the conversation,” Thomas said. “It’s a little bit harder on the weekend because it’s just me and him 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. most of the time. But these 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. are easy because we got the Phillies game this week.”
Thomas called the time between football and baseball “brutal, especially with the Sixers being in shambles.” But he has found some talking points within the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
“I was watching the Flyers but I turned the channel because Notre Dame was playing Butler and it was a good game,” Thomas said.
He’s found the tournament to be quite entertaining even without filling out a bracket. In his opinion, the best game so far was either Notre Dame’s 67-64 overtime win over Butler or Michigan State’s 60-54 upset of Virginia.
Thomas believes his success in sports radio depends on chemistry with other hosts and the ability to build off of the other person. Sometimes this can be hard, especially when working with someone whose opinions and style differs from his own.
“I feel that I could work with anybody. You know I just go off what they say and sometimes some people guide you in the wrong direction like my boy Josh Innes. One time, he kept trying to talk about gay stuff and I’m like, dude?” Thomas said. “He’s cool you just gotta understand where he’s coming from.”