03/31/05 — A whirlwind year: Thomas inducted into NCADA Hall of Fame

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A whirlwind year: Thomas inducted into NCADA Hall of Fame

By Neil Fuller
Published in Sports on March 31, 2005 1:56 PM

Dave Thomas has dedicated over 40 years of his life to the education and athletic endeavors of young people. But the past 365 days have been a whirlwind even by his standards.

Thomas was enshrined in the N.C. Athletic Directors Association Hall of Fame at the Hilton Riverside in Wilmington on March 22. Yet the accomplishments of family are first and foremost on his mind these days.

And the list of his offspring's recent achievements is long:

* Son Greg coached the Greenville Rose football team to its second straight Class 4-A championship last November.

* Grandson Dave Thomas III -- with father Dave Jr. along the sidelines as an assistant coach -- was named Mr. Football in Tennessee while leading Murfreesboro Riverdale to a 15-0 record and the Class 5-A state title. He has since singed with the University of Memphis.

* Son John was named baseball coach at perennial power Wilmington New Hanover.

"My head is still spinning," Thomas joked.

As for his own recent honor, Thomas says there are more important things. He even credits his induction into the Hall of Fame to others.

"The most precious thing in all my life is working with young people," Thomas said. "The cooperation I had when I was the county AD was great. To win any kind of award, you need a lot of teamwork. I feel like I always had that."

Thomas spent 12 years at C.B. Aycock High, serving as football coach for nine seasons before taking on the role of athletics director for the Golden Falcons. An eight-year stint as county athletics director followed.

His work later continued as a member of the N.C. High School Athletic Association Board of Directors and president of the NCADA.

In that time, Thomas made many friends -- a fact he clearly has not forgotten.

"One of the greatest feelings in life is when a young person or a former student comes up to you and tells you something you said or did made a difference in their life," Thomas said.

And his priorities have never wavered. This veteran administrator shows a strong social conscious in conversation -- regarding both sports and life in general.

"I always felt integrity -- going by the rules -- was of the utmost importance," said Thomas, who began his career in Maryland in 1960. "I just thank the Lord, God, my family and our country for everything. I just think integrity is so important right now, especially when you look at what some high-business people are up to.

"I think now (in the sports world), it's too much money. Everything is financial. I think it's very unfair if one person goes by the rules, and I'm on steroids to get an advantage. I think we send a message to our young people. We need to be careful what the message is."

Thomas sees middle school sports playing a greater role in students' lives and hopes the trend continues.

He continues to view sports as a way to a better life for the young people of Wayne County.

"The most (juvenile) crime is committed from 3 p.m. until 11," Thomas explained. "And that's why sports are so important. These kids don't have to be a star, they don't have to go pro. They just need involvement in a good activity.

"Sports in middle school can really help a young person that is at the crossroads in their life."

Words of wisdom from highly decorated experience.