By Lauren McMillin Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations
If you are walking through the Ole Miss campus on any given Saturday after a home football game, you probably won’t expect to find one of your senior Rebel football players volunteering on Grove clean-up duties. But that’s exactly where you might find running back Devin Thomas. Thomas understands the difference that giving back can make. For Thomas, giving back is a way of life.
Serving the community is a passion that Thomas discovered long before stepping onto the Ole Miss campus.
“It started back in high school,” he said. “I always wanted to give back to my community because of everything my community back in San Antonio, Texas, gave me. I’m fortunate just to help out people who aren’t as fortunate as me.”
Since becoming a student at Ole Miss, Thomas has joined a variety of programs, each serving the community in a different way. From food and clothing drives through the National Society of Collegiate Scholars to programs such as Relay for Life and Reading with the Rebels, Thomas has made a point to reach out to those around him.
“My fraternity has a program called Project Alpha,” Thomas said. “It’s basically talking to inner-city youths, showing them how to become a young adult in college, how to make sure their lives are successful so they don’t drop out or get into the wrong crowd. I feel like that helps kids.”
Thomas’ efforts to help the community have not gone unnoticed. In2012 he was nominated for the SEC’s Brad Davis Community Service Postgraduate Scholarship, an award covering all sports. Most recently, he received Ole Miss’ nomination for the AFCA Good Works Team, an honor that Thomas feels is one of his proudest accomplishments off the football field.
“It’s a blessing,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting it. Anybody else could have gotten it. I know a lot of athletes who do community service.”
While Thomas has earned recognition for his ongoing volunteerism, he has received credit for his academic record, as well. A geology major, Thomas has made appearances on both the Chancellor’s Honor Roll and Dean’s Honor Roll. Additionally, he has been a member of the SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll the past three seasons. this past year he was also named to Who's Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges.
Fortunately for the Rebels, Thomas also uses his work ethic to make on the field. In 2011, he played in all 12 games, earning his third letter. Thomas also scored his first touchdown as a Rebel, a goal that he had been patiently waiting to reach. “I’d been waiting to score a touchdown since I got here,” he said. “It took four years, but I finally got one.”
Balancing the demands of both football and academics is an important skill that Thomas has learned throughout his college career. His secret to success? “Time management,” Thomas said. “Having to manage my time, studying after practice. I know one day football is going to end, and I need a degree. Academics have been a big part of my life.”
This drive for excellence, both on and off the field, began when Thomas was a young boy. “I was seven years old the first time I played football,” he said. “I brought home a D from school. My mom said that if I made another D, she would take me out of football. I loved football, so I knew academics had to be just as important.”
Thomas influenced by, understanding the significance of working hard and supporting others.
“I looked up to my dad, how he was always working, trying to support my mom and me,” Thomas said. “The person I look up to the most, though, is my mom. She’s just a great mother, my best friend. She’s always been there for me, when I’ve been at my highs and my lows. My mom is the biggest influence right now, and she always will be.”
The guidance of his parents taught Thomas the importance of reaching out to help others. “My parents always talked about if you have a chance, give back to somebody, always give back.”
This same perspective still remains with Thomas today. Just as his parents inspired him, Thomas hopes that others will be encouraged to serve their communities, as well. “It’s almost a necessity,” he said. “If you can give back, I would say give back. You never know what can happen, only God does. One day you could be struck down with cancer or your situation isn’t turning out like you want, but if somebody is giving back to you, cheering you up, then I feel like you should do the same. It’s just a blessing to be able to give back.”
As he plans for the future, Thomas is focused on a strong finish at Ole Miss. Scheduled to graduate in December, he hopes his final year with the Rebels is a victorious one. “On the field, I just want to have a winning season go to another bowl game,” he said.
After graduation, he plans to try out for the NFL in the spring. As an alternative, Thomas thinks graduate school is a great option. Whatever happens, he is certain that his passion for serving others will never fade.
“I don’t know where I’m going to end up, but wherever I go, I’m going to look for community service,” he said. “I can’t stop giving back.”
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