Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Perseverance and Triumph: The Story of Shamarko Thomas

With his NFL dreams only a little over a week away, Syracuse safety Shamarko Thomas has had a much harder road to this point than most prospects. Thomas has endured way more pain and suffering than a young man should.

After a breakout campaign as a freshman, expectations were high for the electric young safety. But a couple months before his sophomore season, Thomas' life changed in the blink of an eye.

Abdul Shabazz, Thomas' father, was killed in a motorcycle accident by a young driver who lost control of the vehicle.

Thomas has persevered through an
unfathomable amount of suffering.
Nine months after the passing of his father, life struck Shamarko with another devastating blow. His mother, Ebeth Shabazz, passed away.

While his relationship with his father became strained at times, the rock of their family always remained the mother. She attended school and worked at McDonald's, all while raising six children on her own. Thomas reflects on his mother as the true inspiration, "Her favorite quote was 'work hard until your hands and your feet fall off.'"

Thomas spoke to Sports Illustrated about one moment that sticks out. He said in April, before his mother's death in 2011, Thomas spoke with her on the phone. 

"She was like, 'If anything ever happens to me, I just want you to know that you're my chosen one. I want you to promise me that you're going to try your hardest and your best to make it,'" Thomas said, "I told my mom I'm going to make it and take care of my whole family."

On the very next day, Thomas found out that his mother was dead. Ms. Shabazz died from a rare disease which she had unknowingly been battling for years. The news crushed Thomas, he recalls sobbing so fiercely that his neighbor could hear.

"When my momma passed, I'm like, 'God is punishing me again,' but I remember my grandma always said, 'Don't ever say God is punishing you. He's rewarding you,'" Thomas said. "He's making you sacrifice. God don't put you through what you can't handle.'"
Thomas is a projected
day-two selection in '13.

With the loss of both parents, Thomas' five siblings needed guidance. The burden of becoming a parent to his brothers and sisters became evident, but he took it in stride.

He got back to work, knowing that a career in the NFL could mean financial security for his family. Thomas built on an encouraging freshman campaign with solid showings in his sophomore and junior seasons. While he would've certainly been drafted in the 2012 draft at some point, Thomas chose instead to return to Syracuse, his degree wasn't finished yet.

After a good senior season and an electrifying combine, Shamarko Thomas is a household name to NFL teams. While he doesn't have the idea height that scouts look for, his heart is abundant, on and off the field, which is something coaches can't teach.
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