The Rise of ‘The ThomaHawk Show’

Joe Thomas didn’t mince his words about his initial impression of Andrew Hawkins. Thomas was a Pro Bowl stalwart with the Cleveland Browns, playing 10,363 consecutive snaps on the offensive line from 2007-17. Hawkins, a wide receiver, had just signed a four-year, $13.6 million contract with the organization in 2014 after three seasons with in-state rivals Cincinnati Bengals.

“My first perception of him was that he’s a real dick,” Thomas said. “He was keeping to himself a lot and not putting in an effort to make new friends or assimilate with the team.”

As time passed, the two formed a bond as some of the veteran players on the Browns roster. They began having deep discussions about football, life, off-the-field topics and pretty much anything under the sun during lunch that would spill into the locker room.

The chemistry between them was smooth and palpable so much that after Thomas was offered a hosting gig on UNINTERRUPTED’s first football players’ podcast after he retired, he said he’d only accept if Hawkins AKA Hawk was his co-host.

The ThomaHawk Show debuted on LeBron James’ and Maverick Carter’s athlete-empowerment platform on January 5, 2018. With more than 100 episodes under their belt, the former teammates-turned-podcasters can brag about having a show that has been ranked as the No. 1 sports show on Apple Podcasts as well as the top podcast in Ohio.

“Everyone now has a podcast, but we got in at the right time as a player podcast on a perfect network that empowers athletes,” Hawkins said. “When you talk about podcasting, it doesn’t matter how big your name is or who your connections are. I think more than anything people enjoy the conversations Joe and I have and the perspective we bring.”

While The ThomaHawk Show, which releases episodes each Wednesday and Sunday (the latter episodes are also available on YouTube), is primarily a Browns/football podcast, Hawkins and Thomas banter back and forth about whether or not chili is considered soup, what their bathroom habits are, parenthood and other topics just like they did during their playing days sitting side by side in the Browns locker room.

“It’s our willingness to pull back the curtain as players on different topics,” said Thomas, a 10-time Pro Bowl selection. “It seems like people really enjoy that. Hawk has a really good way of giving listeners the feeling they’re sitting next to two friends at the bar shooting the breeze about everything. I think we just have fun.”

The ThomaHawk Show—self described as a “one-stop shop for NFL insights, pop culture takes and a touch of bromance”—doesn’t just give listeners the feeling like they’re sitting at the bar listening to two friends chat, they actually do it.

The show hosted its first live event on November 13 at the House of Blues in Cleveland. More than 350 members of the ThomaFlawk, the show’s highly engaged and dedicated listeners, attended to watch and listen to Hawkins and Thomas host 10 on-stage guests including Michael Irvin, Josh Cribbs, Steve Smith Sr. and John Greco.

The podcast will hit the road again in 2020 throughout Ohio and the United States, doing more live events including from Radio Row at Super Bowl LIV in Miami and potentially at the 2020 NFL Draft in Las Vegas.

The ThomaHawk Show has evolved from a podcast to a bonafide franchise because of the loyal audience Joe and Hawk have built,” UNINTERRUPTED president Devin Johnson said. “They’ve created a real relationship with their fans who are doing more than just listening. They are watching, buying tickets, showing up to events and sporting ThomaHawk gear.”

Fans and followers were able to purchase limited-edition T-shirts during season one, ThomaHawk towels and koozies in season two and can look forward to a full ThomaHawk collection in collaboration with UNINTERRUPTED in 2020.

Hawkins and Thomas also actively engage with their fans on social media as well as at live events, giving back to and interacting with those who “really made us who we are,” according to Hawkins. That doesn’t mean there aren’t added pressures. Hosting a live show is a different animal compared to a pre-recorded, edited in-studio show that can be consumed at the listeners’ leisure.

“There’s a lot of nerves around it,” Hawkins said. “You know people will listen if it’s convenient for them but you don’t know if they’re going to spend their hard-earned money to come see you live and in person. It was a chance we had to take. The House of Blues event exceeded my expectations tenfold.”

The podcast, which has featured marquee guests including Saquon Barkley, Richard Sherman, Dak Prescott and Baker Mayfield, has also led to more media opportunities for its hosts, including at ESPN and NFL Network. Not bad for a “middle-of-the-road receiver and offensive lineman” as Hawkins described the duo.

“A lot of player-driven podcasts do very well, but most players aren’t consistent in recording every week,” Thomas said. “If you want to build a podcast with a loyal fanbase you have to be consistent. Andrew is a hard worker on the field and off the field and it carries over into our show. He doesn’t have the name as some of these other guys but the hard work he’s put in and his ability to commit and be dedicated is a really huge reason the podcast has been so successful.”

High praise from someone who may not have had the best first impression of his former teammate who is now one of his closest friends and podcast co-host, but as Hawkins and Thomas noted, that polarity is exactly what experiencing an episode of The ThomaHawk Show is like.

NOTE: First appeared on Forbes SportsMoney

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