Arthur Ashe famously said,

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.

For two Joes - two Joe Thomases, more specifically - their "start" begins again at practice every week. Every week, where they start, or even if they start, may be different and what they have to give may be different, as well. But, for both, what they can do for their respective teams each week remains the same: they can give their best. 

One Joe Thomas is an offensive lineman for the "Sadness Factory": the Cleveland Browns. 

The Browns have not had a winning season since 2007, but this year has been particularly bleak. The 0-13 season has been bleak enough for a weatherman to commit to haggard beard-dom for over 90 days, but no matter how dire it has gotten or continues to get, Joe Thomas shows up at practice every Tuesday. He could stop there. With his career-long tenure in Cleveland, Joe's aching joints have earned the right to bench themselves every so often on game day, but Joe never stops. Instead, he kicks youngsters off the field to continue making snaps every Sunday. Though even his winning snaps have not been able to reverse the Browns' losing streak, Joe still finds a reason to do everything he can for his team, telling the Akron Beacon Journal,’s your job to go out there if you can help the team better than the person that could be replacing you. I hope that’s something that I leave with the youngsters that we have here.

Though Joe claims that after all of his hard work he still has "no friends" (even the youngsters), Joe's willingness to start where he is, use what he has and do what he can has gained him a rare friendship in his coach, Hue Jackson, who told the press,

You are talking about a guy that has never missed a down, never missed a game, finds a way to be out there when I know maybe there are times he should not be. But it is that important to him to be out there with his teammates.

Cleveland is a city that is not often deemed "important" and the Browns have not been heralded as an important team to anyone outside of Cleveland since 1964. But giving his best for his team will always be important to one Joe Thomas.

To another Joe Thomas, the chances to leave it all on the field for his team will likely be few and far between, but nevertheless, "put me in, coach", is his daily mantra. 

This Joe Thomas Sr. is 55 years old and, with the help of his team at South Carolina State, he has become the oldest player to suit up in Division 1 football

Joe grew up in a poor family with a drunk, abusive father. He was called a "dummy" in school, was partially deaf and developed a speech impediment. But Joe was a fighter. As an upperclassman Hawk at Blackville High school, "...he was a star defensive lineman and a promising running back".

Joe never got the chance to play football in college or to turn football into a career. After trying his fists at boxing in Atlanta, Joe turned his ambition toward raising his family. Though his hard work to take care of his family was not glamourous, Joe did what he could to support them as a businessman. He did well indeed, raising Joe Thomas Jr. into a linebacker for the Green Bay Packers. As David Gardner wrote for Sports Illustrated,

Maybe the most remarkable thing about Joe Sr. is how he raised his son. Joe Sr. gave his son the strength to see through his lack of scholarship offers and still struggle and sweat his way into the NFL.

After helping his son achieve his football dreams, Joe Thomas Sr. decided it was finally time to work on achieving his own. So, at the age of 51, Joe enrolled in South Carolina State to work toward a degree in engineering and to work his way onto the football field. After four years on the scout team and, against all odds, Joe finally got his start; his chance to use what talent he had; his chance to do what he could for his team. As Bill Littlefield reported for Only a Game, the age of 55, Joe Thomas, Sr. got the last laugh, didn’t he? He walked on at South Carolina State, and he hung in there through injuries and three seasons on the bench. And when he got the ball, he didn’t score, but he didn’t fumble.

No, Joe Thomas Sr. did not change the scoreboard during his big play, but he certainly will not leave this season scoreless. Because he reflected Arthur Ashe's charge perfectly, because he wasn't afraid to make his start at age 51, because he was willing to use what he had and to do what he could no matter his age or his injuries, this Joe thomas will leave an indelible mark on college football history. As said in The Business Mirror

Thomas Sr. is a living testament of resiliency and beating the odds stacked against him. I guess you can’t teach an old dog new tricks and you also can’t teach them to give up.

 I think that could be said not just for one Joe Thomas, but for two. The two Joe Thomases may never meet. There is no reason for their football paths to cross, but they will always have their determination to do their best in common. Cleveland Browns Joe Thomas said,

Until they pull me out of the game and say, ‘You’re not doing it well enough,’ I’m going to just keep getting up.

In the continuing tale of two Joes, this will to "keep getting up" will remain as a common theme. 

Elise Matson