By Jordan Kawaya
His days where he led the Buffalo Bills to four straight Super Bowls or when he lost his helmet during Super Bowl XXVI will always be remembered. However, Thurman Thomas, to his fans, will always be the greatest running back who played for the Buffalo Bills.
Five pro bowl appearances, 1991 NFL Most Valuable Player, NFL Hall of Fame and College Football Hall of Fame, and still Thomas said he feels he has yet to accomplish everything.
It has been 17 years since fans of the Buffalo Bills have seen Thomas play on the field. He has, however, spent his years after football contributing to the City of Buffalo in many ways.
Since Thomas moved from the spotlight, his goal has been to raise his four children and to help Buffalo - the city where his wife, Patti, is from, and the city that gave him an opportunity to play football while every other team passed up on him because of a devastating knee injury he suffered in college.
The city has embraced Thomas, and Thomas has embraced the city. In 2016, he moved his 3480 Group headquarters from Atlanta to Buffalo's downtown to create more jobs in this region. Thomas and his wife serve as the CEO and president of the company. 3480 Group Inc. is a research and development company that is focused on broadband access to socioeconomically distressed areas, and designs outdoor distributor antenna systems using RF engineering.
Thomas and his youngest daughter, Annika, have also spoken out about mental health. It was a scare for Thomas after the NFL when he realized he had uncontrollable mood-swings.
Thomas said, "There would be days where I would wake up angry for no reason. Thankfully, I have an amazing family who understood the toll that football has put on my body."
Just recently, Thomas' youngest daughter came out to talk about mental health in hopes of helping others who are going through events where they feel suicidal.
"When I was depressed, I did not want to exist," Annika told WGRZ-TV Channel 2.
"I did not want to commit suicide, but if I had the option to hit a button and cease to live, I would have."
Annika and her father what to erase the stigma of speaking out about mental health.
They will serve as the honorary chairs of the annual Buffalo Superhero Race and Wellness Walk on June 9, 2018, at Delaware Park (www.buffalosuperherorace.com
), with Annika serving as "The Wellness Warrior."
Thurman, Annika, and her new service dog, Hendrix, who is helping her cope with her mental illness, are teaming up to tackle mental health in Buffalo.
As Christmas arrives, Thomas and his family are ready to have a full house full of gifts. What's makes him more extravagant is not because he called his entire family to over to have Christmas gifts opening at his home, but instead because he became the legal guardian of children who were abandoned by their mother in the City of Buffalo.
Thomas met Nader Ngoopos at a Buffalo Bills game almost 10 years ago. Thomas had been known for bringing Pee Wee football kids from the inner city of Buffalo to experience a Bills game in which they may never get to experience, because of the financial reason many inner-city youth face within their household and community. Since then, Thomas has been a father figure throughout Nader's life. Thomas made sure Nader was on track in school, as well as provided him with equipment for his football and basketball season at his high school.
Things came for a turn when Thomas and his wife found out Nader and his three siblings had been living in their home alone for more than a year. Nader's mother left the country for a trip back to the Congo, where she is originally from, but never came back. Nader and his three siblings were forced to become adults for themselves, where they had to cook and take themselves to school. The oldest was in college studying business at St. Bonaventure, however, that left three high school students in the house every night by themselves.
This led to Nader and his siblings falling off track, as they no longer had any guidance in their household.
"I can remember days where I decided I would stay home rather than the wait in the cold to take the public metro to school," Nader said.
He and his two sisters, Miri and Mireille, were depressed that their biological mother had left, and then began using marijuana to cope with their depression.
Mireille said, "My mom was my everything, and I didn't know how to handle it. I honestly believed that she was never coming back. We would always call her phone, and each time she would say, 'I will be back next month.' That month arrived, and she would still not be at the doorstep."
Thomas' greatest moment in life after football was when he and his wife decided to become their legal guardians. They took them in as children of their own.
"I couldn't believe it when I heard it. I broke into tears when I heard that they have been living by themselves for over a year," Patti said.
Thomas and his wife knew it would be difficult, as they already had four children of their own. To bring in four more could cause more trouble.
But Thomas was up for the challenge, and he was willing to make the sacrifice to make sure these kids got everything they need, so they can develop to become aspiring children of the future.
Now Thomas' house is twice as full - but he would tell you he's twice as happy, because he is willing to do whatever it takes to make sure he carries the City of Buffalo (and his family) on his back the same way he did while he was playing.