ORANGEBURG, S.C. — Joe Thomas Jr. arrived at South Carolina State as a walk-on and left as the 2013 MEAC Defensive Player of the Year as part of a unit that was ranked first in the I-AA. That year, the Bulldogs captured their 15th MEAC Championship.
Thomas still thinks of himself as a walk-on even though he is about to enter his ninth season in the NFL. Thomas, who recently signed as a free agent with the Chicago Bears, understands there are players throughout the country either in college or on NFL practice squads who are working to make themselves attractive to scouts and coaches.
Thomas, in turn, is working hard to prevent that process from affecting him directly and so far, the Joe Thomas skill set has taken him to Green Bay, Dallas, Houston, Baltimore, and now the Windy City.
The Blackville-Hilda product recently stopped by Dawson-Bulldog Stadium to watch spring practice at his alma mater. He chatted with his former coaches who remember him as a redshirt freshman trying to make his mark at S.C. State. Thomas has now made his mark in the NFL but he says the lessons he learned from his time in the S.C. State program continue to serve him well.