06/02/09 — Dave Thomas inducted into Wingate HOF

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Dave Thomas inducted into Wingate HOF

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on June 2, 2009 1:46 PM

When God closes a door, somewhere he opens a window.

Just ask Dave Thomas.

Raised in the upper midwest, Thomas and his family migrated to the warmer climes of North Carolina when his father became minister of a church. A young, budding athlete, Thomas played football and baseball and wanted to further his education in college.

No one accepted him, until he met George Tucker.

The head coach at Wingate College, Tucker offered Thomas the opportunity to play baseball for the Bulldogs. Thomas played two seasons and also played football his sophomore year when the junior college institution reinstated the program.

"Coach Tucker gave me a chance where some other schools said my grades weren't good enough," said Thomas. "You know, God sometimes has a plan for you that you don't know about."

The plan became greater.

Tucker took Thomas and two other athletes to a tryout at East Carolina once the Bulldogs had completed their football season. Thomas transferred and became a two-way starter at offensive and defensive end for the Pirates, and head coach Jack Boone.

Thomas went on to excel for ECU, which competed in the Southern Conference at that time.

"Looking back, if Coach Tucker hadn't taken us to Greenville, I might not have had my other three years in college," said Thomas. "He gave me the opportunity to make myself better."

All those successes and strong perseverance led to a tremendous honor for Thomas -- induction into the Wingate University Sports Hall of Fame. He recently attended a ceremony and was enshrined along with former Clemson University men's basketball coach Bill Foster; former Jamaica Davis Cup (men) tennis standout Audley Bell and baseball great Dr. Jerry Pierce.

It is Thomas' fourth Hall of Fame induction during his illustrious career as a player, coach and administrator. He's also immortalized in the East Carolina Hall of Fame, N.C. Athletics Director Association Hall of Fame and Charles B. Aycock Athletics Hall of Fame.

"I am really humble," said Thomas. "There were some better athletes and I was just a reserve catcher in baseball, and starting guard in football. This is so unexpected ... very surprising.

"I think my experiences after graduation probably had something to do with it."

Thomas spent four-plus decades in education in some capacity and was elected to the Wayne County Board of Education in 2006. He has three sons in the coaching ranks -- Dave Jr. in Kentucky, Greg in Fort Walton Beach (Fla.) and John, who recently became the new head baseball coach at Louisburg Junior College.

Thomas recalled his induction.

"It takes a team, there is no individual," said Thomas. "If all eleven men don't do the job, you don't win. When I was a coach, it took the coaches, the players and parents -- a unit -- to win.

"To get an award, it takes a team for the success of it."

And God leading the way when you least expect it.