December is football time for those teams that lucky enough to keep on playing, when I had time to sit down and think about who might be a good fit for the January Alumni Watch I really didn’t have to look far. This is going to be a couple days early, but as we are about to be on winter break I wanted to get this out a little early compared to later into January. I am excited to say, Blake Thomas who is January’s Tech Alumni Watch, is a second generation alumni from Tech. The late Coach Jerry Thomas was one of the early Alumni Watches I did and was very entertaining listening about the good ol’ days. The number of athletes that go on to play college athletics is limited and Blake who graduated from Trimble Tech in 2012 made that leap, not only did he make that leap but he was lucky enough in his collegiate journey to find a winning program that helped shape his future. The following is an interview by email as Coach Blake Thomas is helping get the Pleasant Gove Hawks ready for their Friday, Dec 22nd 4A D2 State Championship Game against West Orange Stark.
Are you second or third generation Tech Alumni? Did your dad graduate from Tech, as I know he still coaches here?
“Both my grandma Sharon Thomas, and late grandpa Jerry Thomas, graduated from Tech in 1963. My dad graduated from Crowley High School.”
Graduating high school is cool, following family is there a special feeling with that?
“I believe graduating from Tech was one of the more memorable things I’ve done with my educational career. The class picture that has both of my grandparents in it is still hanging in the front hallway of the school. It was special being able to see how much history is in that school and getting to be a part of something that had already been in my family.”
What are your favorite memories of Trimble Tech?
“I have so many great memories of my time there at Tech that it is hard to narrow it down. I was heavily involved in sports so my time on the football field and on the basketball court were my favorites. I made so many good friends that I still keep in contact with to this day through athletics. My senior year of football we went 4-6 and didn’t make the playoffs but I wouldn’t trade those memories with my friends for any other team. My senior year of basketball we went undefeated in district and made it all the way to the regional tournament; those memories last a lifetime.”
When you were in high school, what were your plans for the future?
“They changed all the time back then. At first I wanted to be an engineer and then by the time I graduated I think I wanted to work somewhere in the business industry. I took an internship in accounting my senior year of college that lead to a full time offer. After being stuck indoors behind a desk for hours on end I realized that a life without sports wasn’t for me.”
Was playing college football worth the hard work you put in here at Tech?
“Definitely, although our team wasn’t the best in school history it taught me the value of perseverance. In football, and definitely in life, things are not always going to go the way you want them to. You can’t hang your head in defeat or you might miss the next opportunity that is coming right after it.”
You ended up playing for more than one college football team and ended up being part of team that won a National Championship. Did you ever get discouraged, how did you put your head down and keep working?
“I will not lie and say I didn’t get discouraged while transferring after my freshman year. Per the rules of NCAA, in order not to lose a year of football eligibility I had to transfer to a Junior College and graduate before I could join another school. I had to think about what I really wanted in my future, and decided that playing football in college and graduating with a Bachelor degree were a priority for me. Keeping my final goals in mind, I put my head down and went to work on the field and in the classroom trying to make myself the best prospect for another school to sign after graduating. When choosing a college this time I knew what to look for in a successful program and a top notch coaching staff. When three time repeating RMAC conference champions CSU-Pueblo offered me to play for them, it was a no brainer to accept. The rest is history.”
What was it like to be part of a team, putting in the work and see it paying off with a National Title?
“That was an amazing season and a great team to be a part of at CSU-Pueblo. The season played out just like a movie. The team started off on fire, we beat a top ten ranked D2 team at home then a few weeks later we beat FCS, top 10 ranked Sam Houston State on their home field. After two more games we lost to a team that we had never lost to in school history. That was the turning point in the season. Our team had gotten too confident after the Sam Houston win and had begun to play selfishly. That one loss on the year was a wake-up call that we took to heart and didn’t look back afterward. We won the rest of our regular season games and were awarded home field advantage during the playoffs for being conference champs. We won all three playoff games at home. (Crushing your San Angelo Rams in the 2nd round, ha ). Then beat MSU-Mankato 13-0 in the National Championship Game in Kansas City. The feeling of reward and sense of pride after that win was like nothing I’ve ever felt before.”
You are now coaching, and teaching at the high school level. Looking back at your high school coaches, to include your dad who coached you at Tech, does what were telling you ring true more so now that you are in their shoes?
“It’s funny that you ask because I’ve started telling some of the athletes that I coach the cautionary tales of my high school Junior year that only produced 1 win in 10 games. We didn’t listen to our coaches and it cost us on the field. Our coaches always tried to push us to do our best and wanted the best for us and that’s what I’ve always tried to do for my athletes.”
With everything in the media about concussions, you having played through high school and into college, are you personally worried about CTE down the road? Does that play into the way you coach your current players?
“I don’t believe I have too much to worry about with CTE. I have taken my fair share of hits to the head but after high school I was never diagnosed with a concussion. Once I got to college the coaches did a good job of teaching me where to place my head while blocking so I would avoid collisions with my head. Now that I am coaching the offensive line and tight ends in high school I teach my athletes the same things about head placement on blocks so that they avoid head to head collisions.”
You’ve been fairly lucky/good in your path to where you are now with a National Championship in your college career and in your early coach career you will be coaching in a State Title Game. What do you think has gotten you where you are today? What advice would you give any high school kids playing football wanting to be a coach down the line.
“I would say it’s a little bit of both luck and skill that’s gotten me where I am today. Each head coach of their program will sell their team as a “championship caliber” team. You just have to know what to look for in a program and in a coaching staff to know if they’re telling the truth or if they’re just trying to sell their program. Knowing how you will fit in as a teacher and coach is key to choosing the right place to work. Coach Gibson here at Pleasant Grove did a great job selling his program as top in the state to both me and my wife Chrystal. We were lucky enough that there were openings for both of us here and we once we came on board we have loved every minute of it.
As far as advice to future coaches, learn the little details of the sport you plan on coaching. Everyone knows that you have to block and tackle in football, but not everyone knows the details of where your hands, feet, head and shoulders should be on a block and tackle. The more you know about the details of a game, the more you will be able to help your athletes when you land your first job.”
What are your future goals? Would you want to climb the ranks and get into coaching at the college level?
“When I am ready I would love to be Head Coach / Athletic Director of a high school program. I’m not sure I would like to coach in college, that would be too much time away from my family and family always comes before work for me.”
Any thoughts/dreams of returning to Trimble Tech to follow your family tradition of coaching there?
“When the time is right, I would love to make my way home to Trimble Tech to coach.”
As an athletic trainer you get to see students come and go, some had talent that was wasted as they didn’t put forth the effort. Blake was one of those kids who had talent but his effort in what he did made him special and that is why, I am not surprised he has found success where he has gone. I have been lucky enough to watch Blake’s dad, Coach Mark Thomas, coach over the years. That is also how I was blessed to get to know the late Jerry Thomas, Blake’s grandpa, over the years as he came to support Mark and Blake when he played. The entire Thomas family is an amazing group of people to know, they will throw in the occasional jab like the Angelo State (my alma mater) comment. Should Blake’s path lead him back here and I am still around, it would be an honor to call you my boss and work for you sir. Best wishes to Pleasant Grove this Friday afternoon. Here is to hoping you bring home another Championship! Also want to thank Blake for taking a few minutes to share his path with us as I know his schedule is really busy during championship week.
As always, if you are reading and know of a Tech Alumni who has done wonderful things after graduation please feel free to let me know who they are and what they have been up to and I will reach out to them and hopefully have them in an upcoming article of Tech’s Alumni Watch. My email address is: Jason.Braud@fwisd.org and please put as the subject line – Tech Alumni Watch.