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Saints WR Michael Thomas learned secret from NFL greats: Hand yoga

METAIRIE, La. -- Hand yoga.

It’s the secret to Michael Thomas' success. Well, one of them, at least.

The New Orleans Saints' new rookie receiver could easily rely on so many of the advantages he has been blessed with -- massive size (6-foot-3, 212 pounds), great bloodlines (his uncle is Keyshawn Johnson) and a national-championship pedigree from Ohio State.

But Thomas has still found a way to go that extra one-eighth of an inch.

Thanks to hand yoga.

Thomas recently revealed to ESPN’s Sports Science that he was using the unique technique to help increase his strength and flexibility leading up to the NFL draft.

And Thomas told the New Orleans Advocate on Saturday that he learned the secret from mentors like Johnson and former Buckeyes receiver Cris Carter -- though Thomas said he didn’t want to give away too many specific details that he had been entrusted with.

“It stretches them and stuff,” Thomas said. “It’s a little secret I do. I know the exercises and then, when I get massages, I get the knuckles massaged out.”

Sure enough, after Thomas’ hands measured in at 10½ inches at the NFL scouting combine, which tied for second among all receivers, they increased to 10.625 inches when the ESPN Sports Science crew measured them.

He then caught 66 of 67 passes with one hand from the JUGS machine.

“They just keep increasing. I do it all the time,” said Thomas, who didn’t laugh off the idea that they could reach a full foot when asked by the Advocate. “We’ll see.”

In a game of inches, hand size is no small detail. And the Saints definitely pay attention to it.

It’s one of the reasons they liked former undrafted receiver Willie Snead, whose 10¼-inch hands were among the biggest in the 2014 draft, even though he is just 5-foot-11.

“There are prototypes for each position ... hand size is a good trait to have,” Saints coach Sean Payton said.

More importantly, though, the Saints drafted Thomas in the second round because they were attracted to the way he used those hands.

After a slow start at Ohio State, Thomas emerged as a go-to receiver for the Buckeyes over the past two years, with the ability to catch balls in important places like heavy traffic and the red zone.

Even though Ohio State doesn’t feature a pass-heavy offense, Thomas reeled in nine touchdowns each in both 2014 and 2015 -- including one inside of New Orleans’ Mercedes-Benz Superdome during the Buckeyes’ playoff victory over Alabama two seasons ago.

“He’s caught the ball (in rookie minicamp practices),” Payton said. “He’s got strong hands, I would say. That’s one of the things you’ll notice about him.”

Naturally, Thomas will get compared to another big receiver who owned the red zone and the middle of the field for the past decade in New Orleans -- Marques Colston. The Saints released their all-time leading receiver in February, leaving a big void for a big man.

But Thomas tried his best to swat away that comparison talk.

“I have a lot of respect for Marques Colston. (But) I’m just gonna do my job, I’m Michael Thomas,” Thomas said. “Marques Colston is a great receiver, had a tremendous career here, is someone I can look up to and learn from and use what he used and bring my game to that.

"I’m just trying to pick everyone’s brain and learn from them and evolve.”

He's gotten some good advice so far.