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JULIAN McWILLIAMS | INDEX-JOURNAL

Joe Thomas Sr. speaking at Boys Scouts of America Blue Ridge Council fundraiser Thursday evening.


Joe Thomas Sr. has a story that is unmatched. One that proves it is never too late for a dream despite the roadblocks.

During a fundraiser for the Boy Scouts of America Blue Ridge Council that honored Eagle Scout Alva Curtis “Bubba” Fennell, Thomas told his story.

Thomas, 55, always wanted to play college football. An all-state player in high school, the Blackville native’s escape from life’s problems was always the gridiron.

But because of a speech impediment and hearing issues, college and football together sounded daunting to him, so he didn’t go.

“I was teased on a lot,” Thomas Sr. said. “That’s one of the reasons I was scared to go to college at the time.”

But when he was 51, he decided college would be the best thing, and he attended South Carolina State. In 2013 and 2014, he suffered two car accidents, but after long stints of rehab he wanted to resurrect another part of his life: Football.

“I figured since I was in school I might as well try to play football,” Thomas Sr. said. Thomas made the team and got the chance during Senior Day to play at running back, rushing for three yards.

“I always wanted to go to college and play football,” Thomas Sr. said. “A lot of people really put me down, judging me because of my age.”

But Thomas’ message always came back to the kids, who he feels can learn from his story.

“I would like for kids to follow their dreams while they’re young,” Thomas Sr. said. “Because a lot of times you don’t live to get old. Don’t listen to other people. Stay focused and follow your dream.”

Fennell, after being honored, offered his perspective on how Thomas Sr. fit into the message and mission of Boy Scouts of America.

“He’s a great role model for anybody, particularly the kids,” Fennell said. “They can look up to him. He has a great story. I just hope he can get the word around and tell everyone about it”

“Joe’s been through so many different adversities,” said James Alston district executive of the Blue Ridge Council. “So many different challenges, and he just continued to push forward. He stayed physically strong, mentally strong and morally straight, which is values of scouting.”

Due to his car accident injuries, Thomas Sr. never did fulfill one of his final goals, which was to play alongside his son, Joe Thomas Jr., who is now a linebacker on the Green Bay Packers. Thomas Jr. also played football at South Carolina State from 2010-13.

But he is graduating with an engineering degree in May and even plans to run track before leaving campus

“I just thank god for (all of this),” Thomas said. “I am happy now.”

Contact staff writer Julian McWilliams at 864-223-1814 or on Twitter @JulianMack105