I watch old football games on YouTube. I watch highlights. I watch full games. Helpful pack rabbits have uploaded seemingly everything that they recorded on old VHS tapes to the platform, from old NFL Prime Time episodes, to random, terrible full games. Sometimes the NFL itself has even uploaded a cool old game in better-than-VHS quality. It’s great!
Sometimes I find myself watching Eagles games from the late 1990s and early 2000s, an awkward in-between time for the franchise. Jeffrey Lurie, who is still the team’s owner, had bought the team in May 1994. In 1998 the team hit rock bottom, going 3-13. Lurie hired Andy Reid in 1999 and things started to get better.
I’m not entirely sure why I enjoy watching these games, besides getting a chance to see a much jankier Eagles mascot. Do they bring me back to when I was a teenager, and 100 pounds lighter? That’s the best I’ve been able to come up with. But the football in them is fascinating. The shoulder pads are bigger. The turf is harder. The secondary play is much rougher. Some things that aren’t catches are ruled catches. It’s fascinating to watch a current football game and then see what’s changed in 20-plus years.
Yesterday I was searching for a game that actually isn’t on the platform. (It was Cardinals at Eagles, Week 1, 1999, for reasons I don’t feel like going into here. I could only find highlights. I remember leaving for cross country practice when the Eagles were up 21-0 and learning after a long run that they’d lost, 25-24.) I ended up watching a bunch of 1999 and 2000 highlights. And one player stuck out: Jeff Thomason.
Thomason went to Oregon and played 10 years in the NFL. He won Super Bowl 31 with the Packers after the 1996 season, and came to the Eagles in 2000. He retired after the 2002 season. In Green Bay, he’s likely best known for catching a Brett Favre game-winning touchdown pass in Week 1 of 1997. In Philly, he’s best known for coming out of retirement to play for the Eagles in Super Bowl 39 after Chad Lewis was injured in the NFC title game.
What I mainly remember Thomason for, though, is his goofy touchdown celebration. I watched parts of so many Eagles games yesterday, and Thomason kept popping up. He caught 10 passes in 2000—and five of them went for touchdowns. He caught another one in the playoff win over Tampa Bay.
But about the celebration: I made a supercut of his celebrations over the years. Please enjoy several Jeff Thomason touchdowns below.
When Jeff Thomason scored a touchdown, he opened his arms up in a giant “T.” It is pretty self-explanatory. An Eagles beat writer in 2000 called it his “patented ‘Flying T’ celebration.” I couldn’t find any real explanation in old newspapers beyond that: When Jeff Thomason scored a touchdown, he did a “T.” I was a freshman in college in 2000 and my roommate and I used to do the “T” to celebrate anything that year. Spike a pretend football, throw up a big “T.” I should start doing it again.
Yes, this celebration has stuck with me two decades later. Since the NFL liberalized celebration rules before the 2017 season, end zone dances are often group affairs, with players planning somewhat elaborate routines. I think people don’t spike the ball as much as they used to. It was nice to see the simplest of TD celebrations again.
If you watch the video, there’s another great celebration. Matt Hasselbeck’s first touchdown pass as an NFL QB came on a fake field goal. Thomason caught it. He did the “T.” He hugged his teammates. Hasselbeck went to jump on the pile. He missed.
This ruled and I had absolutely no memory of it. Why isn’t this a classic blooper beloved by all? It’s not even its own YouTube video! There are more bloopers online from Elizabeth Hasselbeck. (She’s married to Tim, Matt’s brother.) A news story from around the time said it “made the rounds of the network news shows.” Matt told the Chippewa Herald-Telegram he heard from everyone.
“I’ve seen it about 500 times,” Hasselbeck said. “I’ve heard from some old high school teachers, a lot of old friends.… Rick Mirer called and left two messages on my voice-mail.”
From that same story, Jeff Thomason had some advice for him: “We told him he should just make that his normal celebration: Just jump in the air and fall on his face.”
So now there’s two celebrations to bring back: the “T” and the Fall On Your Face. The future is looking bright.