From High School to the NFL and Back Again.
Updated: Nov 14, 2020
Ricky Thomas is an instrumental member of whatever community he is involved in. He’s been in numerous settings, especially as an Air Force child, as a football player and as a coach. He was born in London, England and he later went on to play football for the University of Alabama, several years after this he won the Super Bowl during his time as a coach in the NFL. “Coach” Ricky Thomas is currently employed at the McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tennessee where he serves and acts as the Dean of Community and Brotherhood, a position he’s held since the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year. He previously served as a teacher and as the Head Coach of McCallie’s Football Team from 1992-1996. Since his return to what is affectionately known as “The Ridge” he has become a vital part of McCallie’s already thriving culture and in turn, contributed to the introduction of programs such as RISE which acts as a motivational program for McCallie’s boarding student body. Since his return, he has become the new Faculty Sponsor for McCallie’s African American Alliance which in recent years has functioned as both a catalyst of change and promoter of strong community bonds.
Question 1, how was your first year back at McCallie? My first year back at McCallie was eventful, challenging, yet fulfilling. What were your first impressions? Upon returning to McCallie, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the diversity within the student body was significantly higher and the faculty/staff was much larger.
A water feature at The McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tennessee
Question 2, What brought you to McCallie & Chattanooga the first time around & back again? The first time that I came to McCallie I followed my wife who had taken a job to practice law in Chattanooga upon graduation from law school. I came back to McCallie last year because of the opportunity to support the character development and intellectual growth of the boys from an administrative leadership position. What are you looking forward to at McCallie? Is there anything in particular you’re hoping to achieve during your time there?? I'm looking forward to collaborating with faculty and staff in an effort to enhance the experience for our students. Also, I'd like to work towards increasing the diversity amongst our faculty and staff.
Question 3, Where are you from? As a military (Air Force) kid, I grew up living in several different places. What was it like where you grew up? I was born in London, England and raised in Minot, North Dakota, Valdosta, Georgia, Florence, South Carolina, Wiesbaden, Germany, Sacramento, California and Niceville, Florida. How did where you grew up affect your life? The exposure to different environments and cultures has provided me with the skills to adapt to new locations, make new friends, and respect others.
Pictured: Wiesbaden, Germany
Question 4, What people have played the biggest role in your life and influenced your development as a person, athlete, and educator? The people who have had the greatest influence on my personal development are; my parents, Bill Wilson (junior high football coach), Sgt. William Peacock ( Air Force ROTC instructor), Bill Curry, and Tony Dungy.
Question 5, Are there any defining events in your life that have made you the person you are today? As I reflect on my journey, there are several defining events that have shaped my life. Some of the benchmark moments are: graduating from the University of Alabama, getting married, the birth of my children, and embarking upon a career as an educator.
Question 6, What are your greatest football accomplishment(s) and or memory(s) in your eyes? A few of my greatest football memories are beating Auburn by kicking a field goal as time expired in 1985, McCallie School defeating Baylor School in 1995, and winning Super Bowl forty-one as a member of the coaching staff with the Indianapolis Colts in 2007.
Alabama Vs Auburn in 1985: "The Kick"
2015 Baylor vs McCallie hype video. Baylor vs McCallie is the oldest high school football rivalry in Tennessee, and among the oldest in the south (1905-Present), each year attracting crowds of 10,000.
Question 7, What teams did you play for? What was it like playing for those teams? Do you have a favorite? What teams and positions have you coached? Did you have a favorite team to coach? Collegiately, I played Strong Safety for the University of Alabama. While we didn't win a national championship during my tenure, I had outstanding coaches and great teammates, many of whom remain close friends to date. On a coaching standpoint, I coached on the defensive side of the ball collegiately while coaching on the offensive side of the ball professionally. Collegiately, I coached the defensive backs Marion Military Institute, Gardner Webb University, and the University of Nevada Reno. While at Georgia State University, I coached the defensive ends. During my time in the NFL, I primarily served as the tight ends coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Indianapolis Colts. While I enjoyed all of the teams that I coached, my time in Indianapolis was fun, amazing, and special being a part of one of the most prolific and record-setting offenses in NFL history.
Ricky Thomas pictured (4th from the left).
Question 8, What was it like being in the NFL? Who were some of your favorite players to coach? Have you coached any notable players? In coaching high school, collegiate and at the professional level, what are your favorite aspects of each? I found coaching in the NFL to be highly competitive, exhilarating, long hours of preparation, challenging to maintain a sense of balance and proper perspective with the highs of winning and the rock bottom feelings of losing. I embraced those opportunities with enthusiastic optimism. A few of the notable players that I coached were Dallas Clark, Marcus Pollard, Dave Moore, Ben Utecht, Bryan Fletcher, Jacob Tamme, Warrick Dunn, and Mike Alstott. In addition to teaching the technical aspects and coaching the fundamentals of football, my favorite aspect of coaching at the various levels are as follows; At the high school level, players play for the love of the game and more players can contribute. Collegiately, the rivalry, pageantry, passion, and pride demonstrated by current students and alums for each school. Professionally, watching the elite players perform on the biggest stage.
Question 9, Is there anything notable or interesting that people don’t know about you, that you’d like them to know? I've been married for thirty years and my wife and I have two children. I enjoy traveling, visiting museums, attending cultural events, playing board games especially Monopoly and participating in community service events.
Question 10, what are you proudest of? I'm most proud of my family and the relationships that have been developed throughout my career as an educator.