It was with vague recognition and then sadness I read about the death of Ed Thomas.
The Parkersburg, Iowa, football coach was gunned down Wednesday. A former player with a police record has been charged with the crime.
News coverage points to Thomas as an Iowa football icon and a man of great faith, a stabilizing force in the wake of a recent tornado.
The name recognition comes from my first job out of college at the Daily Globe in Worthington, Minn. I recall hearing about Thomas’ legacy while covering a few football stories in the northwest corner of Iowa, where some small schools at the time played 7-on-7.
While I never met Thomas or covered one of his teams, his death spotlights the enormous positive influences teachers and coaches can have on young people, particularly in rural areas. Playing high school sports brings together boys and girls at a level of camaraderie that can be fleeting the further we progress through adulthood.
Thomas’ players, current and former, are in profound mourning over his death. That doesn’t happen by accident. He was by all accounts thus far a local legend not just because of his coaching skills but also because of his human compassion.
“God always has a reason,” Aaron Thomas, Ed’s 30-year-son said. “At this time, it’s very tough for us to understand that.”
Aaron also offered prayers for the suspect and his family.
That gesture more than anything else underscores Thomas’ character and the values and faith he passed down to his family.
High school football and a small town have lost a legend. A family has lost its patriarch, and the ability to seek God’s comfort and share it with someone you might otherwise want to take it out on shows a depth of belief which is worth admiring.