Photo via James Witherspoon
*Update: Thomas Sr. appeared in South Carolina State’s recent victory over Savannah State, tallying four carries.
Remember when we all poked fun at Brandon Weeden as a 28-year-old senior at Oklahoma State? Well, a man by the name of Joe Thomas Sr. has him beat—by 27 years.
Campus Rush, an affiliate of Sports Illustrated, posted a fascinating story earlier this week about Thomas Sr., a 55-year-old running back for FCS program South Carolina State University. The entire piece is worth a read, but here are the highlights.
Thomas Sr. grew up poor with a severe hearing impairment. For much of his childhood, his upbringing and disability left him disconnected from those around him. When he was 17, a doctor finally fixed his hearing. That allowed him to connect better with his fellow students at Blackville High School (Blackville, South Carolina), where he soon developed into a football star. He was an excellent tackler and a strong fullback. However, he didn’t receive any college scholarship offers, and he spent the next 30 years of his life working a variety of jobs, which included boxer, assembly line worker, correctional officer, landscaper, professional wrestler and construction company owner.
But the desire to play football never left Mr.Thomas. He instilled his love of the game in his son, Joe Thomas Jr., who went on to play at South Carolina State before making it to the NFL (he’s currently a linebacker for the Green Bay Packers). When Thomas Jr. was at South Carolina State, Thomas Sr. decided to pursue his college degree at the same university. He also decided to walk on to the football team in 2012. Though he was in his fifties at the time, he had never attended college and therefore still had all of his NCAA eligibility. The coach gave him a shot. A string of injuries kept him out of action during 2013 and 2014, but he spent last season as a member of the scout team.
Now, Thomas Sr. has only two games left to make history. SCSU, currently at 3-6, has two games remaining on its schedule. If Thomas Sr. plays just a single snap in either game, he’ll become the oldest man ever to play Division I football. His coach has expressed the desire to get him in a game if he gets the chance. Whether he ends up playing or not, it’s one of the wildest sports stories we’ve ever heard.
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