Former Stroman running back won't be forgotten
April 2, 2012 at 11:02 p.m.
Updated April 2, 2012 at 11:03 p.m.
Ron Ron Thomas and Marie Robinson couldn't help but chuckle through their sorrow.
Ronnie Thomas was wearing a white Panama hat and had "RT'S ARMY" surrounded by stars engraved on his T-shirt, while flashing his usual mischievous grin.
The photo was taken in 1984, but it fit Ronnie Thomas to a "T."
Thomas died Saturday at the age of 50.
He had returned to Victoria a little over a year ago after working in youth homes around the state.
"We kept in contact every day," said Ron Ron, Ronnie's and Marie's oldest son. "I'd pick him up and go to church with him every Sunday. It was real hard being in church without him last Sunday."
Ronnie Thomas was one of the best athletes to ever come out of Victoria.
He lettered in four sports before graduating from Stroman in 1981.
"He was such a bruising runner," said Gary Moses, who taught Thomas at Patti Welder Middle School. "No one could stop him when he was at Patti Welder and no one could stop him when he was at Stroman. What a great kid he was."
Thomas rushed for a then city-record 3,207 yards and 39 touchdowns, including 1,387 yards and 18 touchdowns, while earning all-state honors as a senior.
He also lettered in basketball, track and field and baseball.
"He was just a natural athlete," said Eddie Rendon, who coached Thomas at Stroman and currently is a deputy with the Victoria Sheriff's Department. "He was one of the best athletes I ever coached. He could do it all."
Thomas earned a football scholarship to Texas Tech and had moved up the depth chart before leaving Lubbock three weeks after fall practice began.
Thomas made stops at Southwest Texas State (Texas State), Ranger Junior College and Cameron State in Oklahoma, but never stuck around.
He would be the first to admit he made some poor decisions, including one which landed him in trouble with the law.
But he righted himself and helped others work through similar pitfalls.
Thomas battled health issues including heart problems and a severe case of asthma.
But he spent some time in Beeville with son Trey, who is currently a senior in high school, before coming home.
His passing comes as a shock to family and friends.
Visitation is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday at St. Peter's Baptist Church, and funeral services will follow at 11 a.m.
Thomas leaves a treasure trove of memories, but anyone who knew him will have a hard time forgetting his smile.
The same smile he flashed while standing on crutches in a hospital lobby after fracturing his vertebrae with three games left in his junior season.
Thomas said he'd be back, and time and time again in his life, he was true to his word.
Mike Forman is a sports writer for the Victoria Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6588 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on this column at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.