A video Perth Amboy High School compiled to promote gridiron star Albert Thomas as a candidate for a tri-state area award caught the attention of a Mississippi Valley State University assistant football coach.
The poignant video detailing the trials and tribulations of Thomas, who overcame the passing of his father and injuries to letter in four varsity sports and become a member of the National Honor Society while taking advanced placement courses, eloquently captured his determination and character.
Thomas’ demonstration of those qualities enabled him last fall to win the Week 5 “Heart of a Giant” award.
The program, which the Hospital for Special Surgery and New York Giants sponsor in conjunction with USA Football, each week throughout the high school season recognizes scholastic players from New Jersey, New York and Connecticut who display unparalleled work ethic and passion for the game.
The nine-minute “Heart of a Giant” video, more importantly, played a role in enabling Thomas, who will represent Perth Amboy in MyCentralJersey.com Snapple Bowl XXII at Kean University on July 16, to continue his playing career at Mississippi Valley State, a school best known for grooming Jerry Rice into arguably the NFL’s best receiver.
All proceeds from the charity all-star game, which pits the top graduating seniors from Middlesex County against counterparts from Union County, benefit Children’s Specialized Hospital and the Lakeview School, a program of the New Jersey Institute for Disabilities. Since its inception in 1994, the Snapple Bowl has raised more than $485,000.
The Middlesex and Union squads begin practice on Monday, respectively, at Colonia and Westfield high school’s football stadiums.
Thomas, who recently graduated from the Academy for Urban Leadership, a four-year comprehensive charter school located about five blocks from Perth Amboy High, is among the city’s best all-around athletes.
Thomas also earned varsity letters in swimming (winner of the Most Improved Award) and track and field (team captain) at Perth Amboy. In addition, he earned a varsity letter in wrestling at the Academy for Urban Leadership, qualifying for the regions during his first season as a competitor in that sport.
Perth Amboy football coach Brad Bishop said Mississippi Valley State assistant coach Jack Bush watched Thomas’ “Heart of a Giant” video and senior year highlights and “fell in love with him.”
“He brought it (the video) to the (Mississippi Valley State coaching) staff and they loved Albert,” Bishop said. “They were head over heels for him. With that being said, it was late in the recruiting process when they found him.”
With no athletic scholarships left for its incoming class, Mississippi Valley State “found ways to get (Thomas) grants and academic” money, Bishop said.
“I think it’s a good fit for him,” Bishop said of Mississippi Valley State, a historically black university that competes in the Southwestern Athletic Conference. “I really think he’s a kid that can play on that level.”
Thomas and his mother, Joanne, visited Mississippi Valley State, whose coaching staff told him he would get an opportunity to earn a full athletic scholarship.
“(The coaches) definitely did say if I work my butt off and put the time in, I could definitely do it,” said Thomas, who must report to training camp before Aug. 4. “I’m determined to do well.”
Thomas, who helped lead a resurgence at Perth Amboy, which last season snapped a 10-game losing streak, winning three of its final four games, is the school’s lone Snapple Bowl representative.
Participating in the Snapple Bowl allows Thomas to continue his extensive community involvement.
Thomas volunteered for Huddle for Health, a health awareness event in New York City sponsored by the Rogosin Institute and Living Heart Foundation in partnership with the NFL (he assisted medical personnel in raising awareness about health issues and tackling chronic diseases). Thomas also participated with classmates and other city residents in Superstorm Sandy cleanup along the Perth Amboy waterfront, and volunteered to help feed the city’s needy.
“He’s a great individual,” Bishop said of Thomas. “He’s very humble.”
Thomas’ father, also named Albert, died in January 2010, and has served as the student-athlete’s inspiration ever since.
“I want to make him proud in everything I do,” Thomas said. “That’s how I get my inspiration.”
Thomas credited his mother, Joanne, for providing him with the guidance and support to pursue his goals on and off the football field.
“With her being a single parent, she did a heck of a job,” Thomas said. “She supported me in football and, of course, school was no joke in this house. I want to make her proud.”
Thomas, who missed his entire junior year with a broken foot, played quarterback, running back and wideout last season, at the end of which he earned Home News Tribune third-team All-Area Offense honors.
“I have much to look forward to this upcoming season,” Thomas said. “My freshman year in college is really my senior year because of me missing out my junior year.
“I have a lot of weight on my shoulders, but I’m up for the challenge.”
What: MyCentralJersey.com Snapple Bowl XXII, New Jersey’s most successful charity all-star football game
Where: Kean University’s Alumni Stadium, Union
When: 7 p.m. Thursday, July 16
Participants: Recently graduated high school senior players and cheerleaders from Middlesex and Union counties.
About the event
Beneficiaries: All proceeds from the game, which has raised more than $485,000 since its inception, benefit Children’s Specialized Hospital and the Lakeview School, a program of the New Jersey Institute for Disabilities.
Practice venues: Colonia High School (Middlesex County All-Stars) and Union High School (Union County All-Stars).
Key dates: Middlesex County All-Stars and Union County All-Stars begin practice July 6; Middlesex County All-Stars visit the Lakeview School in Edison and Union County All-Stars visit Children’s Specialized Hospital in Mountainside on July 13; Snapple Bowl banquet at Pines Manor restaurant in Edison July 15.
Tickets: Can be purchased at the gate for $10.
Previewing the game: Leading up to Snapple Bowl XXII, the Home News Tribune, Courier News and MyCentralJersey.com will feature at least one story daily, as well as videos.
Game coverage: Look for a game story, a notebook, a Middlesex County sidebar, a Union County sidebar, an A1 story, a photo gallery and video highlights from Snapple Bowl XXII in the Home News Tribune, Courier News and at MyCentralJersey.com.
Social media: Follow us via Twitter @MyCJ_Sports and @SnappleBowl for updates and to interact with reporters and Snapple Bowl XXII game director Marcus Borden.
MyCentralJersey.com Snapple Bowl XXII official web site: Can be found at https://worknotes.com/NJ/SouthRiver/SnappleBowl/