Where Are They Now: Calvin Thomas

One of the things that Calvin Thomas enjoyed doing most as he was growing up was playing football. When his youthful dream of becoming a pro became a reality, he could hardly believe his good luck.

"Actually, thinking back on things, luck didn't have all that much to do with it," Thomas said in a recent interview "I put in years of hard work to make it first as a college player, then on the professional level. Was it worth the time and effort? Definitely. There aren't many people who come away from football with a Super Bowl ring."

Thomas had considerable competition for on field time during the six seasons (1982-87) that he lined up for the Bears, but this fullback out of the University of Illinois managed to make his mark as a reliable lead blocker who ended up with a career total of 672 yards on 171 attempts.

"I think that one thing I definitely brought to the field was my dependability," Thomas said. "I had a pretty healthy body and rarely missed any playing time. I also felt that I was able to communicate well with the rest of the offense, and that's very important when you are playing that side of the ball."

Thomas left the Bears and played for the Broncos in 1988, then retired at the end of that season. He still remembers just how difficult it was to leave the game.

"It's one thing if you've had enough and have decided that it's time to retire, but it's something else completely if your coach tells you that's it's time to go. I just wasn't well prepared for that stage of my life. When you are doing something that you love, it's always difficult to see it go."

After football, Thomas ventured into number of business opportunities in the Chicago area, including work with the Teamsters, which he found to be satisfying but not quite as exciting as suiting up on Sundays before an adoring crowd. But he eventually found his way back into sports, this time as a Little League coach.

"I'll tell you, that can be a lot of fun," Thomas said. "It's such a responsibility because this type of organization is the main introduction into sports for so many of these kids. You want them to have fun but still improve their skill levels. It's a combination of education and athletics. I loved doing that from the beginning, and I still do."

In fact, Thomas' interest in coaching soon spread his love of the game on to the next generation of his family.

"I think that had a lot to do with my teenaged son becoming a player. That, and the fact that I often talked to him about my experiences with the Bears. We've always loved watching games together. And recently, one of my favorite ways to pass the time has been to see him play RB and LB for his high school team. Unfortunately, this past year he had a season ending injury, but we're both hopeful that he'll be right back out there come fall."

What Thomas remembers most vividly about 1985 was the sense of inevitability that came over the team as the season progressed.

"The more we won, the more comfortable we all felt with the situation. We developed the expectation that we'd always come out on top. I think that tended to intimidate many of the opposing teams."

The other factor that Thomas remembered was that just about every game on the road became more or less of a home game for the team.

"It was absolutely incredible. There were huge numbers of Bears fans that followed us all over the country. We'd come into stadiums that were far away from Chicago and there they'd be cheering us on. That definitely had an impact on the way we played. You never want to let your home fans down. Also, I think that since there were so many unique characters on that team, we picked up a national following. So even though the fans might root for their own teams, they weren't all that upset if we won."

And what about game time, Super Bowl XX? Does Thomas remember being intimidated by the importance of that contest?

"No, not really. By that time, I'd played for the Bears for a few years and Super Bowl just felt like one more road trip. Of course there was so much hype that you couldn't help but notice, but we were able to regain out concentration pretty fast and get our heads back into the game. Once it was over, and things began to sink in a little, we all realized just how big a thing winning that game truly was. The parade downtown certainly brought that fact home. But back then, I don't think any of us imagined that the city would still be so involved in that victory 20 years later."

Any advice for the current team?

"Actually, yes. I know that you've had some tough seasons. That can get depressing but you can never let yourselves give up. Don't quit until you have played it all out. This is such a rare opportunity to be in the National Football League and the time will pass sooner than you can ever imagine. So my advice would be threefold: communicate with your coaches and teammates; never quit; and learn to depend on the people who can get you through this. There's a great season waiting in the wings. Just be patient and good things will come to you."


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