Q. What was the first job for which you were ever paid?
A. Probably working for my father at his lumberyard. I was about 10 when I started there, just doing some odd jobs. I loved it. I still do. There’s nothing better than a man doing work with his hands, I believe. The value of manual labor was the second most important value my parents gave me other than my spiritual upbringing.
Q. Do you remember your first bike?
A. First fight? I’d guess it was probably with my brother.
Q. I’m sorry, first BIKE?
A. Ohhh, my first bike was a Huffy. Black and gray. We lived in the country about a mile-and-a-half outside of town and we’d ride into town on these gravel roads to dad’s lumberyard. That was big entertainment for us. We’d try to ramp the piles of rocks that were there. We put a lot of wear on those bikes.
Q. You’ve made mission trips to a number of places. What's the one moment that’s the most vivid memory from those?
A. The first that comes to mind was in India where we went to an extremely remote village. We were the first Caucasian people seen in that village, and that fact alone brings it home how remote the village was. The other vivid memory I have was on the same trip, I remember walking down the street in an area that basically looked the same as the areas in the movie Slumdog Millionaire. There were two little kids that couldn’t have been more than 18 months old sitting on a cot by themselves. They were just expressionless, looking at us. That was very tough to see but these are some of the realities that two-thirds of the world is experiencing. Statistics are statistics but every single person in those statistics has a story behind them.
Q. You’ve done so much missionary work, have you ever had difficulty reconciling the material rewards players have here with your spiritual beliefs?
A. People ask me that a lot. And I remember after that trip to India, two weeks later I was in Hawaii for my first Pro Bowl so you talk about extremes. I guess the thing that’s been impressed upon me is not so much a feeling of guilt but responsibility and opportunity to say, ‘Wow, we’ve been put in a strategic place for a reason, and we need to bring awareness to the plight of the poor and the needy.' Being part of the NFL has been a blessing. Some people would say it’s worldly compared to a more spiritual value system, but what a gift it’s been to allow us to be able to have the freedom now to move forward and bless a lot of folks because we have the means to do the things we’re doing. It’s a different paradigm in which to look at it.
Q. I remember seeing in the days after his murder, his son Aaron saying that he also prayed for the alleged shooter, Mark Becker. That’s a moving stance for a person to take after such an event.
A. I feel the same way. The reality is, any person, any situation can be redeemed. That’s the core of what we hold dear in this faith. Grace is powerful and that’s why some people outside the community have a hard time understanding it. Coach Thomas’ wife, Mary, she reached out the day it happened. (Becker’s mother) comes to the Thomas’ house and they embraced. That doesn’t happen unless there’s something very blessed deep inside your core. I’m not saying there aren’t times you won’t feel angry but the reality is that grace doesn’t make sense.
Q. How are you keeping Coach Thomas’ memory alive?
A. Through the Ed Thomas Foundation (www.edthomasfamilyfoundation.org). Also, I have the Sports Illustrated cover after it happened in my foot locker at the stadium so that every time I open it, I look right at the cover and remember the ripple effect of what life’s about. I also have a picture he gave me of a hand holding a Falcons helmet. It’s on the wall at the back of my garage so that every time I pull my truck in, I’m looking right at it.
Q. Was the Brett Favre circus a distraction to the Packers last year?
A. During training camp when the fan base was divided and it felt like an away game going to practice, I think it was a little bit. But after training camp and once we started playing games, it really was never an issue. So that 6-10 record, you can’t blame that on anything else. That was ours to own.
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