Ed Thomas' legacy will be in the lives he touched both on and off the football field, Creighton assistant basketball coach Darian DeVries said.
Thomas, the head football coach at Applington-Parkersburg High School in north-central Iowa, was shot and killed Wednesday, allegedly by a former player.
DeVries played for Thomas, as did DeVries' brothers Jared, Dusty and Jay. Jared went on to become an All-America defensive lineman at Iowa and now plays professionally with the Detroit Lions.
“He was a father figure who everyone respected,'' said Darian, who played quarterback and free safety for Thomas the first year that Appleton and Parkersburg consolidated their high schools. “He treated all of us as equals, whether you were a starter or someone who played a few downs on special teams.
“He had an unbelievable way of motivating his players.''
Thomas also played a big role in the rebuilding of Parkersburg after a tornado devastated the town and killed eight people on May 25, 2008. Thomas' home was among those leveled by the tornado, which also destroyed the high school and the football field.
Thomas, who had coached at the school for 34 years, had the field rebuilt in time for the start of last season. His 2008 team won its first 10 games and made it to the semifinals of the state playoffs.
“With everything that town has been through, this is going to shake a lot of people,'' DeVries said. “He basically spearheaded the rebuilding of the town.
“Get on YouTube and go to the video of his speech on the opening night of football. Watch that, and you can't help but respect the impact he had on the community.''
One of DeVries' favorite memories of Thomas came from the opening night of DeVries' senior season.
“It was our first game as a consolidated school,'' DeVries said. “He brought us into the gym and turned the lights off. He walked around and talked — he had this voice that could make your hair stand on end.
“By the time he was finished, we were ready to play. And he was a guy you really wanted to play for.''
DeVries said he had several conversations Wednesday with people back home.
“You hear about these things happening, but you never expect them to happen in your hometown,'' DeVries said. “You just can't believe it, especially when it happens to such a good man who did so much.''