People shared their incredible stories of a beloved high school coach in Southwest Florida during a celebration of his life.
Even when track coach Guy Thomas was in the hospital, families told us he was still calling and checking up on his student-athletes at Dunbar High School and even doing what he could to get them scholarships. Thomas died of COVID-19 recently.
A speaker at the vigil held in his honor Friday night said he wanted Thomas’ name on every hurdle at Dunbar High. The athletic director said that’s something that will absolutely happen.
“From as far as I can remember as a toddler, he’s just always been my superhero,” younger brother Corey Thomas said.
Coach Thomas led his student-athletes to state and national championships, even earning an offer to work for Adidas, which he turned down.
“He said, ‘Sis, I have to be here for the kids. I have to be here for the neighborhood. I have to be here for this school,’” older sister Stephanie Williams explained. “And I said, ‘Hey, do it. There’s nothing wrong with that’. Some opportunities you miss is for a reason.”
Everyone said Thomas saw the real potential in every person he met.
“He treated each kid like they were his kids,” said Roger Mottley, whose son and daughter were both coached by Thomas. “So he’s going to push them to the fullest. He cared about them.”
“He was the best coach, definitely,” said Bernarjay Jackson, who was coached by Thomas.
Jackson says coach Thomas is the reason he got involved with running.
“He got me a lot of scholarships, got me in touch with a lot of coaches, a lot of different HBCUs and stuff,” Jackson said.
Thomas’s brother says his passion for training people to be their best began at an early age.
“He’d be like, ‘Hey, what are you doing man?’ Mind you, this is 6:30 in the morning,” Corey said. “I’d be like, ‘Man, I’m chilling today.’ And he’d be like, ‘Hey, you think Marcus Dixon over there at Raines is chilling today? You think grant over there in Ocala is chilling today?’ So he was like, ‘Come on man; let’s get up and get it.’”
Thomas’s brother and sister both told us they’re working on creating a scholarship to help send kids to college in his name. They say that’s the best way to carry on his legacy. There will be another celebration of life here at the school 10 a.m. Saturday.
Loved ones say coach Thomas was selfless, always putting others first, and it’s what they will hold onto.
“He’d stand up for others, and I can remember him getting into a fight on more than one occasion, and it was always defending other people,” said Burnett Kelly, who has known Thomas since elementary school. “He’d be willing to fight for you.”