Fans’ prayers go to hometown hero
By Dave Rogers
For The Record
NFL All-Pro Earl Thomas missed his team’s game two weeks ago with a hamstring injury, then broke his leg in Sunday night’s return and finally told his Twitter followers he was considering retiring.
It’s been a crazy couple of weeks for Earl’s fans, who number quite a few in his hometown of Orange and even more across Longhorn Nation and millions across the NFL.
Thomas, the 2015 Person of the Year for the Record Newspapers, was all-state in high school football for West Orange-Stark, All-American for the University of Texas and now a four-time Pro Bowler for the Seattle Seahawks.
Toby Foreman was among many who couldn’t recall the Seahawks free safety ever missing a game before the Nov. 27 game at Tampa Bay.
“The only injuries I can recall him having in high school was with the ankle,” said Foreman, now Beaumont Central’s head coach and formerly West Orange-Stark track coach and football assistant. “He had ankle injuries a couple of times.”
Then Foreman recalled how Thomas dealt with them.
“His sophomore year he hurt his ankle right before the district track meet, but he gutted it out and ran,” the coach recalled.
“The hurricane (Rita, 2005) year, he was a junior, and we had to play three games in eight days” to make up for games missed.
“I remember the Orangefield game was the one in the middle, and we were careful with him. But he played in all three.
“In my opinion, he can definitely handle pain. I remember he waited until after the Super Bowl a couple of years ago to have shoulder surgery a couple of years ago.”
Terry King, who was WO-S trainer when Thomas played for the Mustangs, recalls the town’s favorite son playing a tough two-sport double-header.
“One time, we’d gone pretty deep in the football playoffs and were playing the same weekend there was a basketball tournament,” King said.
“We got knocked out of the football playoffs on Friday and there were a lot of athletes on the football team who were going to play basketball. Our basketball coach, Doug McCarter, told them, ‘Get your rest and come out Monday.’
“Earl shows up Saturday and plays a couple of basketball games. He was always a real driven athlete.”
Thomas excelled in four sports during his high school days.
“He was a four-sport letterman at least three years,” Foreman said. “I especially remember his junior year:
“We went to the semifinals in football and the state tournament in basketball. He was all-district in baseball and went to the state meet in three events. Then he pretty much spent all summer playing seven-on-seven or going to camps.”
At UT, Thomas red-shirted as a 2007 freshman but started every game for the Longhorns the next two years, including 2009 when UT lost the National Championship Game to Alabama.
The Seahawks made him their first-round draft pick in 2010 and he had started 106 straight games before skipping the Tampa Bay game.
But it was a mid-air collision with teammate Kam Chancellor in the next game, Sunday night against Carolina, that left Thomas’ shin-bone (tibia) broken.
Monday morning, the Seahawks reported that Thomas would miss the rest of the season to heal.
But by that time, Thomas had created a Twitter storm.
“This game has been so good to me no regrets,” came the Sunday night Tweet. “A lot is running through my mind including retirement thanks for all the prayers.”
Several NFL reporters have said in the past two days that Thomas is maintaining those retirement thoughts while Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Monday Thomas was joking.
As of Tuesday night, no new information had been offered by Thomas via Twitter or his personal website, which has not been updated since Sunday’s game.
“Maybe that was just emotional. Who knows?” King said.
Foreman has faith in Thomas.
“Being a selfish fan, I’d like to see him back on the field, continuing a Hall of Fame career,” the coach said. “But Earl is an intelligent guy and whatever decision he makes will be in the best interest of his family.
“I know he’s going to pray about it. I know he’ll make the right decision.”