The Orange Leader
WEST ORANGE —
There were some busy campers, big and small at the Earl Thomas Football Camp at West Orange-Stark High School Friday.
A slew of kids had the time of their lives as close to 500 attended the camp, which is nearly 200 more than attended last year’s first camp.
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.
The kids were soaking up knowledge from NFL players along with a bunch of former West Orange-Stark High School standouts.
Thomas, who was a All-State player at WO-S, is now a two-time Pro Bowl safety for the Seahawks after he also received All-American honors at the University of Texas.
“It’s such a great chance to give back to the community that I love so much,” said Thomas. “I would’ve loved to have had something like this to attend while I was growing up. The turnout was great last year but this year, it’s phenomenal.”
Several NFL players are in town for the event including several Seahawks teammates including Richard Sherman, Brandon Browner and Cam Chancellor.
“I like to bring those guys down here and get them used to this good old Southeast Texas heat,” said Thomas. “I’m really grateful to these guys for coming. A lot of them are big-city folks from cities like Los Angeles, Miami and such. They need a little old-fashioned small-town atmosphere for a change.”
Thomas was thrilled to see a lot of new, young shiny faces and also all of the old high school buddies that were their to help the camp go smoothly.
“I love seeing those smiles on those little faces, they really soak things in and want to learn,” said Thomas. “It’s also great to see a lot of my old high school teammates and friends and former Mustang players that come out here and are willing to help. A lot of good people put tremendous effort into this and I’m so thankful.”
Registration started as early as 7 a.m. Friday. Thomas spoke to the campers and parents in the WO-S practice gym then the kids headed out for the group picture that covered an entire section on the home side of Dan Hooks Stadium. At 9:30 a.m., all of them hit the field.
Campers were all put through “the ringer”, learning position drills and speed work along with team competitions.
WO-S Athletic Director Cornel Thompson was eating up every second seeing all the kids flock to the high school.
“It really is amazing, they organize this thing so well,” said Thompson. “Close to 500 kids are in attendance and that’s incredible,” said Thompson. “It just seems like Earl was running around here at their age, time sure does fly by. Earl is a tremendous young man who has earned everything he’s achieved. It’s really great to see Earl come back to his community and really inspire a lot of young kids.”
Thompson also had a big dream.
“The entire Seattle Seahawks secondary is here, they sure would look great in Mustang uniforms.”
Former WO-S standout Roy Locks was also instructing campers. Locks, who will be coaching at Beaumont Central next season, was really enjoying the morning.
“What’s really great is to see those kids with wide eyes when they approach some of these NFL guys,” said Locks. “It’s really great what Earl is doing here and it’s tremendous for the community. He’s just the type of guy that loves to give back.”
Thomas was a First Team All-Pro last season and made his second straight trip to the Pro Bowl. He has not missed a game in three years and helped the Seahawks to the NFC Divisional Round of the playoffs last season.
Last season, Thomas was involved in 66 tackles, picked off three passes for 80 yards, returning one for a touchdown.
Many people forget the numbers Thomas 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.
The camp will crank back up Saturday at 8 a.m. Awards will be handed out at about 11 a.m. A great twist has been added as well. At 1 p.m. there will be a 7-on-7 Tournament which will feature four teams including ones from the local fire department and DPS office. The winner of the four team tournament will then have the chance to face Thomas and other NFL players for a winner take all championship.