It's been a year and a half this earth has kept turning without the life of Rodney Thomas.
While Rodney may not be here physically, he's still making his legacy known in big ways because a life like Rodney's is not one you can shake easily.
His memory still rings loud within the National Football League who honored Rodney back in his home town Monday with a Golden Football.
“This football today proves that just because he's gone, his way of life goes on,” said Rodney’s brother, Steven Thomas.
Speaker after speaker in Groveton reminisced on the fond memories of Rodney.
Two state championships and a four-year stunt playing for Texas A&M didn't define Thomas. Not even a seven-year career in the NFL made up who Rodney was to the core and that's what the Golden Football sent from the NFL is all about.
“The way he's still living on is with his way of life. Being respectful, being kind, knowing no matter what it is in life it's bigger than him,” said Steven. “He’d take that second, take that minute, to put a smile on that person’s face knowing in his heart he's happy.”
The honor is part of the league's Super Bowl High School Honor Roll. As Super Bowl 50 approaches, the award celebrates players and coaches who have participated in the past 49 Super Bowls and have made a positive impact in their communities and in the game of football.
While the award could have been sent anywhere in Rodney's football career, there really was only one place that would been the right resting spot- Groveton.
“This was the beginning when he started playing football in 7th grade,” said Rodney’s mother Shirley Williams. “I was a terrible mother because I always told him ‘I didn't want nobody hitting my baby.’ This would mean the world to him. This is heart. This is home.”
“I think he would have been humbled. This is the place he would have picked for it to go to,” said Rodney’s wife Leigh Thomas. “Groveton was always home. When he talked about home it was Groveton. It was not College Station, not Spring where we lived. Groveton was always home.”
As a family of strong faith they recognize Rodney's life may have been short at 41-years-of age, but that brief stint embodied everything the former Indian was all about.
“I always tell people if they know and looked at the way Rodney ran, he was not a long distance person. He was a short distance person. He wanted to run short, hard, and as fast as he could. That's how he lived,” said Steven. “Some people could try to leave a little bit in the tank every day but he didn't. Every day he woke up, he gave everything he had and I think that's the way he left this world. The tank was empty when he left. He gave everything he had. Everything positive that a person on this earth should give to his friends, his family, that’s what he did. He gave everything he had.”
A loving mother and wife both mourn but also celebrate the life of Rodney who's continuously being honored by a community that cherished a man who touched countless lives.
“While talking to everybody in Groveton, he seems to have touched everybody in one way or another so I think he lives on in everybody,” said Leigh. “That's a big blessing I know to both myself and I know Shirley, the way he has been able to impact people in such a positive way.”
“To know how much the town, the community, loved my son means the world. I want to say I appreciate everything from my heart. So thank y'all,” said Williams.
Autopsy results later showed Rodney died from a heart attack.
Groveton plans on continuing to honor his memory by placing the Golden Ball in their trophy case at the high school.
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