By Molly Moser
In the third grade, Aaron Thomas already knew he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps by becoming a teacher and a coach. Coach Ed Thomas, Aaron’s father, became the national high school football coach of the year in 2005. He sent five players to the NFL, won two state titles, and led his team to 292 victories over his 37-year career. Perhaps most importantly, Thomas led cleanup efforts after an F5 tornado destroyed many homes in Parkersburg – including his own.
Coach Thomas taught his son Aaron many lessons, which Aaron shared with a large audience in Guttenberg. When the elder Thomas gave interview after interview while leading clean-up efforts in 2008, he told his son, “Anybody can lead when things are going well. True leadership gets revealed when you’re going through adversity.” Little did his son know he would need that advice just one year later.
In June of 2009, Aaron Thomas learned that opportunities arise from tragedy as well as from hard work. “I got the platform to speak on the worst day of my life,” he remembers. When his father was slain by Mark Becker, a former football player in the team’s weight room, Aaron was called upon to give a statement to the media in which he publicly asked for prayers for the Becker family. That was the first of many opportunities Thomas was granted because of his noble response to the tragedy.
He admitted to having “the easiest first 30 years of life,” and expressed unending gratitude for having three decades with a great father. He chose to continue his father’s legacy of leading by example, agreeing to take over as football coach and principal at Aplington-Parkersburg and encouraging his students to follow their passions and become better spouses, parents, and community members.