As the featured speaker at Friday’s 22nd Salvation Army Souper Bowl for the Hungry, Thomas told the crowd that packed the Holiday Inn ballroom for the benefit luncheon that he and his wife have made it their lives’ mission to help as many people as possible.
Beyond football, the legendary Buffalo Bills running back said he wants to someday be remembered for what he did for others.
Best high school football player in Texas, two-time Heisman Trophy candidate, first player to score a touchdown in four consecutive Super Bowls, and college and pro football Hall of Fame inductions are some of the athletic accomplishments he hopes to outshine in his charitable endeavors.
“I’ve done charity work all my life,” Thomas said. But it was when he was in college that he became more deeply involved through his work with Special Olympics.
“I do a lot more now. And I know in my heart I can do more.”
Born and raised in Houston, Thomas said he met a girl from Buffalo whom he would marry while in college at Oklahoma State. “She was from Buffalo. And I got drafted by Buffalo. Thirty-one years later we’re still in Buffalo,” he said.
Last year the couple established a foundation to help families and children. And with credit to the giving nature of the people of Buffalo, Thomas said, “in two months we raised more than $100,000 to help families and children at Christmas.”
With their own four children of their own now in their young adulthood, Thomas and his wife have adopted an 13-year-old girl from the inner city and are also hosting her twin brother and sister in their home.
“Everyday I get up and drive my kids to school and then I stop at places. I stop at stores. I stop at banks, hospitals. I stop everywhere,” helping people. “And I keep on making those stops until it’s five o’clock or until it’s time to go back and pick up my kids.”
Thomas said his knowledge of Buffalo public schools, which rank among the worst in the nation, has set him on a new mission.
And he vowed that within the next year he will do something big to make those schools better, particularly for athletes who “do not graduate and do not go to college” but are passed along through high school “to play sports and win state championships.”
During his short time in Johnson City, Thomas said he could tell people here, like people in Buffalo, are caring and loving. And he asked for an invitation to return to the Souper Bowl, not as a speaker but as guest. “I’ll come back,” he said.
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