HOUSTON - Michael Thomas is back in his hometown.
The former Nimitz High School standout signed with the Houston Texans back in April after spending last season with the New York Giants. In his short time being officially back in Houston, Thomas didn't waste any time reaching out to his community.
On Monday, Thomas shared an inspirational two-minute speech not only for Nimitz High School but for all of Aldine ISD's 2020 graduates during a virtual event put on by the district.
"It was a huge honor for them to ask me to speak to not just my high school but the whole school district's 2020 graduates," Thomas said during a conference call with Houston media on Wednesday. "It's an honor for me, just 12 years since I graduated from Nimitz to be asked to come back and speak. For me, I was like all right, that's pretty cool to have all the students want me to come back and speak."
During a 17 minute and 52 second video called Aldine ISD Class of 2020: Destined, which was posted on the Aldine ISD Facebook page on Monday night, Thomas delivered his message wearing a gray t-shirt with the word EXCUSES with a line drawn through it.
"I just want to say congratulations to all the 2020 seniors who are graduating from high school," Thomas said during the video. "Congratulations, you did it! I know you all have had long nights. Studying for tests, writing papers and finishing projects. You probably thought this day would never come. All the memories you created, the games, the competitions, the performances. All the jokes made in the hallways, cafeterias and class rooms. All the times you've laughed, all the times you've cried. All the videos you've made for your Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok's. These are the moments that will last forever. No, this is not the vision you had as freshmen with nerves and scared of what high school would be like. But today, you are still here in your cap and gowns around your family accomplishing a huge goal."
Thomas spoke for nearly two minutes (8:25-10:30) in the Aldine ISD video to the Class of 2020.
"I always have love for Aldine," Thomas said. "I always come back and do my summer camps and speak to the kids all the time and they receive it well."
Being a staple in the community, speaking up on social issues - such as the recent death of George Floyd - and focusing on education is something that Thomas dates back to his high school days and the lessons his mother instilled in him at a young age.
"That's something she preached all the time, education and being a community leader," Thomas said. "I think the way I've evolved is understanding that as an athlete, a student-athlete at that time to now a professional athlete, my voice probably carries a little bit more weight than the other students and as a professional it's carrying a little bit more weight than a regular – not a regular, but a non-professional athlete, a citizen. I have a duty in my mind, this is where I was raised by my mom, to speak out if there's social issues that are going on and that need addressing because people listen to us regardless if we're talking about cancer awareness or anti-bullying and stuff like that. Our voices amplify those causes, so when it comes to social justice issues, our voices can amplify them as well and I saw that.
"How I've evolved is OK, I never saw myself as an activist, but when it came time for athletes to step up and use their voice and use their platforms to speak on this, I was doing it because I thought that was the right thing to do. That was just who I am because of who my mom raised me to be. That's probably how I've evolved on that front. With education, that's something that my mom instilled in all her kids, all of us growing up, and I think that's a great way for anybody, an athlete or non-athlete to have upward mobility in life. So, giving out those scholarships, always speaking about SAT and ACT prep, financial literacy, those are the types of things that I will continue to do even probably after my career is over with because I know that's what's going to help these kids who grew up in the same communities I grew up in, the Aldine area, and neighboring cities in Houston, that's what's going to help them have upward mobility and it's going to carry them a long way whether they're playing sports or not."
Unlike during his previous year in the NFL, which were spent in Miami and New York, Thomas now has the chance to be even more involved in the community that raised him.
Signing with the Houston Texans brought him home, which the Nimitz alum is excited about.
"Just seeing all the love and appreciation I got from my family, friends I grew up with, people who might have known me just from following my career from when I was playing at Nimitz, it was overwhelming," Thomas said. "Then it just started to hit me, like, wait, I'm really going to get a chance to play for the hometown team and get chance to help this team win. It's overwhelming. I'm super excited for it to try to bring wins to this town. I know how much the Texans mean to the city of Houston."
More from Michael Thomas ...
What has the communication been like amongst you and your teammates since the murder of George Floyd?
"First I'd say, there's so many teammates, ex-teammates, current teammates, who have reached out to each other, just showing support. Those especially who aren't African American and aren't black, to see them reach out to myself or players that they know have been trying to use their voice or their platform to speak out against police brutality or trying to speak for justice. That's been heartfelt, that's been touching because I know it's genuine. To see the players behind the scenes like Kenny Stills and myself – we can't be face-to-face all the time so it's like 'look, there's a march today. These people are speaking. Do you want to help speak? Do you want to just be a part of it, be a part of the hurt and the healing process and just being with the people?' That's been what it's like behind the scenes, everybody reaching out to each other, showing love, showing support and just saying what can we do to help lean in on it. Especially for the current players on the Texans – I'm new, so I'm getting a chance to learn everybody and meet everybody for the first time virtually. It's been a great process because even though we can't be face to face, we're still trying to build that bond."
What is it like for you to be home in your community with everything going on right now?
"It's always great to be able to be with the people who are in the grassroots level doing the work every single day, because then you really know what's needed. If people ask, "What can I do?" I know that this branch and this organization has been doing it for a long time and this is how you can help. You can either donate time or monetary donations and stuff to this organization, because that's who's really going to help try to create real change. Being on the ground here in Houston, I know that Congresswoman Jackson Lee is pushing for this bill, and this bill is going to try to bring about change towards police brutality. So, I can tell the people, "Look, on this level, this is what we have to do to vote, and this is what we should vote for, this is the bill or the legislation we should be voting for." That's been how I can help right now in Houston. I've got my daughter, she's five years old, about to turn six, just graduated from kindergarten and she sees it every day. As a parent sometimes you're like when is the right time to have those conversations with your kids, and you can try to shelter it because you want them just to be a kid, just to live their life, but at the same time they see it, and you've got to have those real conversations. Sometimes they're uncomfortable. Being in the thick of it, being home, it's being able to help with the grassroots level and saying hey, for everybody who is looking for something to do, how they can give back, I can help facilitate like look this is where we need to go to try to actually have sustainable change and a sustainable impact in this community, and also understanding my personal family, we're in the thick of it. I got to explain to my kids this is what's going on and this is why."