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Joey Thomas

Trust Spotlights

Joey Thomas

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On any given game day in the DKR Texas Memorial Stadium, Joey Thomas can be found on the sidelines. While many people envision burnt orange and Matthew McConaughey when the University of Texas at Austin is mentioned, Thomas, the team’s Senior Defensive Analyst, immediately thinks of his newfound home.

Hailing originally from Seattle, Washington, Thomas has been playing football since he was eight years old. The son of a coach, he describes the game as his “first love.”

He grew up idolizing his father’s football career; “he always talked about being the best corner in the city,” Thomas said. After testing out multiple positions for himself, Thomas decided to focus on being a cornerback—a move to the “island” that fed his competitive nature and pushed him to be a better player with each play.

“Even now—it doesn’t matter what I’m doing—I’m trying to win.”

When it was time to play for a college, Thomas spent his first year at the University of Washington before transferring to Montana State University. Initially, his move to a new state was a bit shocking; “I didn't really know where Montana was,” Thomas laughed, “I was a city kid.” Yet, he knew on his first official visit that he had found his future team.

Today, Thomas credits John Rushing and the rest of Montana State’s coaching staff with changing the trajectory of his life. He appreciates that his coaches never tried to stop him from being himself on or off the field, and now channels that same energy into celebrating his own players’ individuality.

Regarded as one of the best cornerbacks to ever play at Montana State, Thomas went on to be drafted in the third round by the Green Bay Packers before a successful NFL career playing for the New Orleans Saints, the Dallas Cowboys, the Miami Dolphins, and the Oakland Raiders.

“My time in the NFL was interesting,” he said, reflecting on the ups and downs that accompany such an intense career. “You have to play this game for the right reasons, and you have to love what you do,” he said. Being in the NFL, “showed me a lot about who I was as a person,” Thomas said, and today, he takes the lessons he learned in the League and imparts them to his players.

Being a coach now, I try to take my experiences and the experiences of others that I saw around me and pour them into these young men.

One of his proudest achievements in the League was being a player on the 2008 Miami Dolphins team, which is regarded as the greatest single-season turnaround in NFL history—going from a 1-15 season in 2007 to an 11-5 record in 2008. Being on that team, Thomas “got to see how to build something from the ground up.” The team began as a melting pot of different players—coming from different backgrounds and teams— who were able to come together and make the Dolphins a success. “We all had to buy into one mission,” he said, “I draw upon that experience a lot in coaching.”

When Thomas eventually left the League, he felt ready to transition into a career of coaching, with a focus on mentoring the next generation of players and staying around the game of football. “I'm a son of a coach,” he said, “it's in me.”

Before starting as a Senior Defensive Analyst at the University of Texas at Austin in 2022, Thomas spent time as a head coach at the high school level, a secondary coach at Scott Junior College in Kansas, and a wide receivers coach at Florida Atlantic University. At the heart of his coaching career has always been his desire to serve and mentor others.

The reason why I went into coaching was not just because of the good coaches I had, but more importantly, the bad coaches I had. They were an example of what I didn't want to be.

One of The Trust’s biggest assets to Thomas has been the Coaching for Success Workshop held annually at the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Convention. Each year during the Annual AFCA Convention, The Trust hosts a professional development workshop for Former NFL Players who are currently coaching or trying to break into the industry.

“I attended the AFCA Convention because it was an opportunity to network,” Thomas said, “it’s not just who you know, but more importantly, who knows you.” He credits networking and his preexisting professional relationships with helping him get to the University of Texas today.

“Be crazy enough to believe that you can do it and be stubborn enough not to listen to anybody who tells you that you can't.”

He hopes to impart to fellow Former Players that their unique experiences can shape young players’ lives and that there is a whole coaching community waiting to be joined. Thomas’ last piece of advice for Former Players is clear: “Manifest what you want, chase it, and go get it.”

In addition to being an attendee of The Trust’s Coaching for Success Workshop, Thomas is a proud recipient of The Trust Scholarship and a user of Athlife, which he credits with helping him complete his bachelor’s degree and work towards his master’s. Additionally, he is an attendee of the Exos Breakfast Club in San Diego, which he said was vital in helping him reembrace training and nutrition after leaving the League.

For those interested in attending this year’s Coaching for Success Workshop on January 8 and 9, 2023, please join us in-person at The Westin Charlotte in Charlotte, North Carolina or participate in the sessions virtually when they are broadcast live. Please register here.

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