Something special happened on Saturday, November 19th. 55 year-old Joe Thomas, Sr. got his wish. While such statistics are not definite with the NCAA, it is believed that Joe was the oldest D-1 football player to take the field for South Carolina State. His game stat: a run for 3 yards.
Joe’s story includes overcoming economic and physical challenges growing up in Blackville, South Carolina. In high school, he was a gifted, strong player who played on both sides of the ball. His athletic career seemed to come to an end with no prospects of attending or playing in college.
Fast forward. His son, Joe Jr., was a budding star at State. Dad decided to join him in the classroom and on the field. His son, who now plays for the Green Bay Packers, helped him put a highlight video so he could walk on to the team. They never got to play together but Joe Senior would not give up. Since his first interview with the head coach in 2012 until that Saturday, he patiently went to work to earn his shot. Four years later, his tenacity paid off. His son said of his dad, “When my teammates first found out, they’d say things like, ‘Your dad is coming for your spot.’ But he’s a grown man, and I wasn’t going to get in the way of his dreams. I’m happy for him.”
What gets in the way of your dreams? Reading a more complete version of the story of Joe Thomas, you get a sense that he had plenty of moments when he could have quit. He built a business that hit the skids. He fell behind on his financial obligations. He couldn’t find a job that did not require a college education. So he asked his wife, Sarah, to help him fill out a college application, then drove the 40 miles to the SC State campus. He asked his son if he would be okay with him if his father joined him in college.
I like stories of overcomers. I like being challenged to push through even when obstacles are plenty. Joe is living the dream. I hope we can live ours.