Two years ago I wrote a column
about Spanky Thomas, a friend from college who died young. I wrote:
“Spanky” isn’t exactly a tough-guy name for a football player. Also, his build was slight for a linebacker, a position typically requiring size, height and speed.But Spanky had something else: a knack for excellence, a quiet, steady bearing and an unstoppable work ethic.As a black youngster growing up in Wiregrass Alabama, Thomas broke through the last remnants of racial divisions.When his all-Southern Conference college football days at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga were over, the NFL wasn’t waiting for him. Instead, he returned to his hometown, Dothan, to assist a Boys Club, to mentor youth who needed a role model like Spanky.Eventually, he moved on to central Florida to lead a Boys Club of his own.He died in a car accident 20 years ago yesterday — Feb. 27, 1990. He was 24.Two decades later, when friends and former teammates speak of Spanky Thomas, they express the same thoughts.Spanky was a natural leader, in the classroom, on the field and in life.Spanky had a great smile.Spanky is missed.
The whole column is here
. I was reminded of the column this afternoon while going through The Star's photo archives. The top photo here is of Spanky (No. 11) chasing an Auburn running back during a 1986 game. By the way, pictured in the bottom photo is Mike Makins, another teammate of Spanky's who spoke with me for the column.