He chose an education over the NFL. Now, he’s guiding the MEAC through COVID-19
There’s a list – a very short one – of former college football players who can say they beat out future NFL Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton for a postseason award.

The list ends and starts with Dr. Dennis Thomas.

Before Thomas became commissioner of the Norfolk-based Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, he was a star football at Alcorn A&M – now called Alcorn State.

In 1973, Thomas made history when he became the first and only offensive lineman to be named the Southwestern Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year. Thomas was a unanimous choice by the coaches. Payton, a junior at Jackson State, and Alcorn’s Jimmy Davis and Bobby Huell were runner-up.

“I obviously was honored and humbled by being chosen the Offensive Player of the Year by the coaches,” Thomas said recently. “I always thought I was pretty good, I thought I did a great job in blocking. But getting recognized as an offensive lineman was special because we didn’t get much notoriety or publicity.”