Former Bulldawg Duke Thomas hosts inaugural football clinic
By TJ Maxwell
Inspiration comes in many forms and, for over 60 Cove football players, it came this week when former Cove quarterback turned University of Texas defensive back and current Dallas Cowboy, Orlando “Duke” Thomas, worked out with the team this week before hosting his inaugural football clinic on Saturday.
“It’s pretty cool,” varsity quarterback Easton Simpson said about Thomas’ return. It’s an inspiration to have someone who has already gone through this and it’s a good motivation for all of us. It shows us all what we can do. He doesn’t look like what you would think an NFL player looks like, but he shows that you can make it. He’s an inspiration for myself.”
It was pretty cool for Thomas as well.
“It has been a great time out here, he said. “I just feel like coming back and showing these kids that I walked the same halls as them and I did the same things they’re doing. I just want to show them it’s possible. I just want to be a good role model for these kids and show them other things to do to help them grow in the game of football.”
Thomas wasn’t alone, however. He brought friends and hopes to bring more in the future.
Along with other Cove and Di college standout Brelan Chancelor, Thomas brought the assistant coach for athletic performance from the University of Texas Clint Martin and UT teammate and current NFL kicker Nick Rose.
“I had a lot of good people that came out here to help me out,” said Thomas. “There are a lot of great athletes out here and I really enjoyed it.
Thomas is looking forward to future clinics and hopes he can inspire other former Bulldawgs to join the fun.
“Hopefully next year we can have another great one,” he said. “I definitely want to get more people out here. I would like to reach out and get some of the old Cove guys to come out here.”
The experience was also inspirational for senior receiver Christian Tuiasosopo who was named an MVP after a spirited ultimate football competition to conclude the clinic.
“I remember watching Orlando growing up and I wanted to be just like him,” he said. Him coming back to teach us is just surreal and a great opportunity.
“It means a lot. It shows they really care. Personally, I would like to do this. It has inspired me to come back and support the community. I love what they’re doing.”
Being named the MVP was pretty cool, too.
“That’s pretty cool,” said Tuiasosopo. “I love to compete. Football is the sport I love.”
Simpson acknowledged the journey Thomas took to the NFL, going from athletic quarterback to defensive back and how it inspires him, but also knows it can be a boost for some of the younger guys just fighting for a spot on varsity.
“It gives them hope that they know they can do it just like he did,” said Simpson. “Duke just giving us an opportunity to get better just brings them a step closer to being on the varsity team.”
Taking a break from the intensity that is Texas football and just having fun with the guys was cool as well.
“It’s great, it was fun,” he said. “I love this part. Football is my favorite thing to do.”
Thomas has his own battles to make sure he is still on a roster when the season rolls around and he’s doing what it takes to make sure that’s a reality.
“I’m doing the same thing these guys are doing,” he said. “I’ll be doing the same drills that I showed them today and working with my guy Clint to make sure I’m in top shape come training clinic.”
The clinic was free for all incoming ninth through 12th graders.