The Los Angeles Rams are welcoming plenty of new faces in 2017, which also means new jersey numbers. Second-year wide receiver Mike Thomas is one of those changing numbers.
Thomas will enter 2017 wearing No. 88 after wearing No. 13 during his rookie campaign.
However, this isn't your average jersey switch. Thomas' ties to the number 88 go much deeper than vanity.
"I wore No. 88 in college at Southern Miss. I feel like that number represents something more to me, my great grandmother," Thomas said. "She passed away at the age of 88 and that was also her favorite number."
Thomas' great grandmother passed away before she was able to see him realize his NFL dreams. Yet, she still has a major influence on his life to this day.
"One thing about my grandmother was she was always aggressive. She laid down the law. We all respected her and that was something that always stuck with me. It was either her way or no way. I feel like she taught me to never settle - do what you want, but you better do it the right way."
Thomas has taken those lessons and that attitude to the football field. In a way, it is his way of giving back to her and his family.
"In college, I felt like I was representing her when I was on the field. I would just feel this extra energy, like she was always with me. I truly feel like changing my number is a big deal. It's all positive vibes this season. It's a new beginning for me."
Thomas was a sixth round draft pick for the Rams, appearing in 15 games and contributing mainly on special teams. He has much bigger plans for 2017.
"I'm on a different mental state this year. I got a lot of rookie mistakes out of the way last season. This year, I'm ready to make an impact. I know I will because my grandmother is going to be on my back with me. I'm representing my family and I'm ready to make plays for my grandmother."