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A night to remember

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"No one person will replace Ed Thomas but if everybody steps up and does a little more then we can actually get more done."

Aaron Thomas, son of the late Ed Thomas, on Thursday night to more than 150 people in attendance at benefit for the Ed Thomas Foundation

It was easy to feel at home at the event for the Ed Thomas Family Foundation on Thursday night at Centennial Golf Club in Waverly, Iowa. I was seated at a table with former Jaguars linebacker Bryce Paup along with center Brad Meester, defensive end Aaron Kampman and safety Sean Considine.

All the players were there to pay their respects to a man who shaped so many lives, and that was evident from the stories that were told throughout the night. Former Aplington-Parkersburg standouts and current NFL players Casey Wiegman and Jared DeVries were in the house and were joined by Colts tight end Dallas Clark and former NFL wideout Tim Dwight at the golf tournament on Friday.

It was great hearing the stories from the players but I was more interested in meeting someone else. The highlight of the evening for me was meeting Coach Thomas' wife, Jan. What a wonderful lady with a grace about her that is hard to describe. I just wanted to tell her how much I respected the way she has handled everything following the passing of her husband.

Her response shortly after it was discovered that her husband was shot by one of his former players was more telling. She reached out to the family who still had a child playing for the football team. I remember seeing her quote in one of the newspapers about the family. She said, "They are good people. My heart breaks for them. We lost Ed, but they lost Ed and they lost their son in a lot of practical reasons or ways."

She was back for the golf event on Friday, thanking all the golfers for their participation. I'm hoping we can get her to Jacksonville for a game in the near future.

Aaron Thomas, one of Ed Thomas' two sons, talked about how the idea for the foundation was initiated by Wiegman during the visitation services for his dad. He said there was plenty of time to talk while there was a four-hour wait at the funeral home. The foundation was created off Coach Thomas' three main criteria for life: faith, family and football. You can read more about the foundation on the website, www.edthomasfamilyfoundation.org.

Aaron talked about his father's passion for making his players better people more than anything they did on the field. He said his family vacations consisted of driving around to different high schools and seeing who had the best facilities. His dad was dedicated to making sure his school had the best resources even if it took a lot of his own sweat and money. Coach Thomas would be asked to speak all across the state and he would use the money raised to help pay for facility upgrades and things needed for the team.

The foundation is in the early stages but they have already made some significant donations. I thought one of the neat things was they gave every eighth-grader in the A-P school system a Bible and they want to extend that reach even more in 2010.

If people didn't know about Ed Thomas they will next week. The Thomas family along with Meester and Kampman will be in Los Angeles next week to accept the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPN ESPY's Awards.

Listen folks, this is a pretty esteem honor. Ever heard of the names Nelson Mandela or Muhammad Ali? Those are past winners of the award. I'm happy that people across the nation will get to know what Coach Thomas stood for.

Kampman gave a really emotional speech about his relationship with his former coach. He talked about his tough 2009 season with the Packers and how several times he wanted to pick up the phone and call Coach Thomas but he wasn't there.

Kampman had the pleasure of being at the first A-P game following the tornado and witnessed Coach Thomas' speech to the team before the game.

"He had their hearts in his hands," Kampman said. "I was ready to go play. I still knew all the plays."

We wrapped up the event yesterday with golf on a beautiful day. Of course, I thought it was a joke when they told me I was playing with Dallas Clark of the rival Colts. I say that facetiously because Dallas is a great guy and was a pleasure to play with. I made sure he knew that we added Kirk Morrison, Aaron Kampman and Tyson Alualu to our defense this offseason just in case.

I have to thank Devin Range of Edgecore for allowing me to play with his group. We didn't win the event but we might have had the most fun. I do have to point out Considine's team won the event while Kampman's team was honored with the last place trophy. Hey, the Jaguars didn't pay him to hit a golf ball, just rush the passer.

It's hard to describe the popularity of the athletes from Iowa among the people here. I really didn't know much about Johnny Orr or Dr. Tom Davis but I know now they are responsible for some the greatest seasons in Iowa State and Iowa basketball history. I also quickly found that Coach Orr is one of the funniest people I have been around as he razzed Dallas all around the golf course about being a Hawkeye.

These guys are legends in this area and there was no further proof than the silent auction. There were autographed items by Maurice Jones-Drew, John Elway, Brett Favre, Tim Tebow, Carson Palmer, Nolan Ryan, Jack Nicklaus and many more. Well, the highest bid among all the items was a helmet signed by Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz. That says it all about the loyalty in this state. Good for them.

Will check in one more time later.

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