DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — Among all of the Miami Dolphins, idle tackle Jonathan Martin knows the team's new celebrity safety the best, because they played together in college.
So when Michael Thomas made a game-winning interception in his NFL debut and found himself mobbed by teammates who didn't even know his name, Martin was quick to send a congratulatory text message, coast to coast and Stanford alum to Stanford alum.
"That means a lot," Thomas said Tuesday. "Jonathan was one of my best friends at Stanford. I looked up to Jon."
Thomas said Martin's still rooting for Miami, despite his allegations of daily harassment by teammates that prompted him to leave the team in October. The bullying scandal threatened to sabotage the season, but instead the Dolphins (8-6) have gone 5-2 since Martin went home to California, and they'll clinch a wild-card playoff berth if they win their final two games.
Low on star power, the Dolphins are winning thanks to a broad cross-section of contributors, none more improbable than Thomas.
"Michael Thomas, the new superstar," coach Joe Philbin said Tuesday.
Undrafted out of college, Thomas joined the Dolphins last week when they signed him off the San Francisco 49ers' practice squad, where he had spent the past two seasons. Once in town, he worked with Miami's scout squad but didn't practice with the defense, and was expected to play only on special teams Sunday against the New England Patriots.
But when cornerbacks Brent Grimes and Nolan Carroll left the game with injuries, nickel back Jimmy Wilson switched to corner, and Thomas found himself in the game at safety with four minutes left. He had to borrow gloves from receiver Mike Wallace.
"You try to give to the needy," Wallace said with a laugh.
In the final minute, with Miami leading 24-20, Tom Brady tried to pull off the Patriots' fourth consecutive comeback victory, and a completion gave them a first down at the Dolphins' 19 with 27 seconds to go.
Miami defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle consulted frantically with assistant coach Blue Adams, who had tutored Thomas, to find out what coverages the newcomer would be comfortable with.