(Orange, Texas)

June 27, 2014

Thomas Camp more than football

Van Wade
The Orange Leader

WEST ORANGE — Weather played a role in Day One of the Earl V. Thomas III Football Camp at West Orange-Stark High School but it certainly didn’t damper the spirits of all the kids, team leaders and NFL players.

More than 800 kids signed up for the camp in early signups and a bunch more signed up Friday to push the total to close to 1,000 by the time the camp got underway.

Thomas, the All-Pro Seattle Seahawks safety and University of Texas All-American was just one of several National Football League athletes directing the camp, which is a total success as kids from all across the Southeast Texas region are attending.

Thomas, who was a All-State player at WO-S, is now a three-time Pro Bowl safety for the Seahawks and a Super Bowl winner with the Seahawks, who blasted Denver in the last Super Bowl.

Thomas was thrilled to see all the bright, young faces Friday.

“What a turnout, Said Thomas. “The kids, they have those big smiles. They really take everything in and they want to learn and they look up to all of us.”

A lot of people from the community volunteered their efforts to make it all happen.

“My family does so much to get this going and people around the community that I’ve known all my life have stepped up to the plate and help out,” said Thomas. “It’s a tremendous opportunity to give back to the community that I love so much.”

Several NFL players are in town for the event including several Seahawks teammates including Richard Sherman, Cam Chancellor and Bobby Wagner.

“I’m grateful to have such excellent teammates that are here with me to support this great camp along with several other of my NFL buddies,” said Thomas. “For them to take up their own free time, it makes me very proud. It’s also great to see some of my hold coaches, teammates and friends help out and instruct the kids. A lot of good people put a whole lot into this and I’m grateful for them.”

Andre Bevil, who was Thomas’ quarterback in their senior year at WO-S in 2005, was just one of several former Mustangs at the camp to help out.

Bevil, who went on to set several passing records in his two-year stint as the starting quarterback at Lamar University, is now an assistant coach at Beaumont Central.

Bevil was really enjoying the camp and mingling with the kids.

“It’s amazing how far the camp has come,” said Bevil. “The best reaction is when those NFL players walked in and the kids just went crazy with excitement. It’s fun for me, because I get to see some of my old teammates, especially Earl because we go way back when we were 4, 5, 6 years-old. He’s like a brother to me. It’s great what Earl does for the community, not only with the camp but other things as well. He loves to give back and he’s always been that way.”

One of the camp’s main leaders, Derrick Scott, had the kids fired up early with an inspirational speech.

“We’re here for the kids to not only teach them about football, but life as well,” said Scott. “We want to teach them that hard work pays off, not only on the football field but in life as well. You learn how to buy into a system, whether it is at the high school level, college or the pros and you abide by it and surround yourself with great people. These NFL guys here, they all have had influential people in their lives at those levels.”

Thomas was a First Team All-Pro last season and was selected to his third straight trip to the Pro Bowl, which he and his Seahawk teammates missed because they were too busy getting ready to bury Peyton Manning and the Broncos in the Super Bowl. He has not missed a game in four years and helped the Seahawks’ secondary become the best in the NFL.

Thomas was in on 105 tackles last season, 78 of them solo and he picked off five passes.

Many fans around the area remembered the numbers he posted as a Mustang. He played not only defensive back but receiver and running back as well as a three-year starter.

He recorded 112 career tackles with 11 interceptions, two kickoff return touchdowns and two punt return touchdowns, while also having 1,850 rushing yards and 2,140 receiving yards in his career.

He was also All-District in basketball and baseball and was a State Track participant on excellent WO-S track squads.

The camp will crank back up Saturday at 8 a.m. Awards will be handed out at about 11 a.m. At 1 p.m. there will be a 7-on-7 Tournament which will feature some fun action.