By Raymond A. Partsch III
In the historic timber town of Winnfield, Thomas was a skinny but athletic little kid living with his mother at the H.Y. Bell Memorial Apartments, known to locals as “The Bells.” It was during mornings before the school bus arrived that Thomas and other neighborhood kids would get bruised and bloodied playing football on the unforgiving pavement.
There was no room for those who wanted to dance around with the football. For the younger and undersized kids like Thomas, the only way to carry the football was to take the handoff and power forward.
“I had to work harder because of my size,” Thomas said. “I always played with the bigger kids. They would always rough me up but that helped me later on.”
The experience would help Thomas become an All-American at Winnfield High School, a three-year starter and record holder at the University of Michigan, and eventually the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year. Now, it has helped Thomas take his place in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. He will be enshrined Saturday, June 25 as part of the 11-member Class of 2016 in Natchitoches.
“It was weird to me,” said Thomas of getting the news he would be inducted. “When I think of the Hall of Fame, I think of all these great players that played in Louisiana. I feel very fortunate to be considered one of those players.”