TRINITY COUNTY, TX (KLTV) -
The East Texas town of Groveton is mourning the loss of one of the greatest players to ever put on an Indian uniform. Running back Rodney Thomas passed away on Saturday at the young age of 41.
Thomas led Groveton to back to back state titles in 1989 and 1990 before going on to play at Texas A&M and enjoying a seven-year NFL career. East Texas news talked with Thomas' family on Monday about remembering a man who touched so many lives.
If football stars were royalty, then Rodney Thomas was a king. "Rodney Thomas was one of the good guys," Groveton resident Luther Cockrell said. "He may have been one of the greatest players I have ever seen."
Thomas was a king who didn't live long enough. "You don't think about people that are 41 years old dying," East Texas News anchor Taylor Hemness said, a former Groveton resident.
Before he was a pro or even an Aggie, Thomas mauled through defenses in a Indians uniform, racking up over 8,000 rushing yards, which is good enough for fifth all time in the state.
"He is a Groveton local hero," Cockrell said. "Anybody who has ever been through or lived in groveton knows Rodney." Thomas' brother Darrell Williams added, "We're overwhelmed for the love that people had for him."
But Rodney's success was just limited to the playing field. Those who knew him the best say he made a much larger impact off the field.
"He had friendships from Groveton to College Station to all over the NFL," Hemness said. "He had a lot of friends, but anytime you were around him, he made you feel like you were his best friend. It didn't matter if you were a nine or 10 year old boy."
Rodney's brother Darrell added, "There will be so many stories about Rodney Thomas and how he touched lives, but football was just a small part of who Rodney was. Rodney was an amazing angel."
An angel the family hopes will inspire future generations.