Thomas was an all-time great, earning Pro Bowl bids in 10 of his 11 seasons with six first-team All-Pro selections while putting together an amazing streak of 10,363 straight snaps played.
Surrounded by the pomp and circumstance of Super Bowl Opening Night, Whitworth took a moment to put it all into perspective.
"Then he retired at the end of last year. That really made me think. If Joe Thomas is retiring, what does that say about what I should be doing?"
Turns out Whitworth should be doing just what he is doing, anchoring a phenomenal and perhaps overlooked L.A. offensive line that's been a constant for the Rams' high-octane offense.
With three Pro Bowls and a pair of All-Pro nods to his credit, Whitworth has done plenty with his career, too. At 37, he's played in 199 games with 195 starts, surpassing Thomas, who's 34 and started in all 167 games he played.
"It would have been nice if Joe had gotten to experience something like this," Whitworth said.
Retirement really never was all that close for Whitworth it seems, he just would have missed it all too much.
"Really when I sat down and weighed it, I said you know what I just love the game too much," Whitworth said via NFL transcript. "I love the opportunity of being in the locker room too much and felt like I could still play at a high level and so for me it honestly was just you know what I'm gonna keep pressing on."
But Thomas has moved on, likely to remain in the hallowed halls of the Buckeye State with a spot in the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton. Whitworth has excelled no matter his age, having started all but one regular season game in his two years with the Rams, helping their ascent to the top of the NFC West and now their journey to Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta.
"To be the oldest offensive lineman in the league and have an opportunity to play in this game is tremendous and something that I worked 13 years for and played, I don't know, 12-13,000 snaps in NFL football to have this opportunity," Whitworth said, "so I couldn't be more excited and honestly just pumped up for the moment of going out there and having this chance."
In his 13th season, Whitworth is still playing at a high level and now has a chance to help the Rams bring home the highest honor.
"I still really love to play the game," he said, "and I'm blessed to be able to keep playing it."