By: Dakota Wright
October 20, 2016; 10:55 a.m.
Just recently I had the opportunity to sit down and read The Sacred Acre, a book written in memory of Ed Thomas – a high school football coach for Aplington-Parkersburg High School in Parkersburg, Iowa – and how he changed the community on and off the field. I felt touched by the story, so touched that I’m choosing to share this man’s story with you.
In my short lifetime, I have seen many tragic events happen. One of them is Ed Thomas’s death. On the day of June 24, 2009, a day like any other, Coach Ed Thomas was gunned down in the football team’s weight room by Mark Becker, a 2004 Aplington-Parkersburg graduate and one of Thomas’ former players. Thomas was flown to Waterloo, Iowa where he was pronounced dead upon arrival.
Ed Thomas lived a very honorable life. He had an early life like any small town kid. He played football growing up; his position was quarterback. Yet, unlike every small town kid, his career with the Aplington football team, was unlike anyone else that had come before him. Thomas coached for 37 years of Aplington-Parkersburg Falcon football and won two state titles and a total of 292 games (roughly 75% of all the games he coached). Thomas won the state championship in 1993 and 2001. He is credited with having coached four NFL players, which is the most per capita of any high school in the nation. The NFL players he coached – while they were students at Aplington-Parkersburg – include Aaron Kampman, Brad Meester, Jared DeVries, and Casey Wiegmann. Landon Schrage was signed in 2006 as a long snapper for the Baltimore Ravens, making him the 5th player under Coach Thomas to reach the NFL. Lastly, in 2005, Thomas won the prestigious NFL High School Coach of the Year award.
Yet he was not only a coach. He is still known for his actions due to the tornado that hit his city. He told everyone on his team to toughen up, and the team worked together to fix their football stadium before their opening day game.
The death of Ed Thomas was a tragedy because he had inspired so many people in his lifetime. Ed Thomas was murdered on June 24, 2009, by Mark Becker, a mentally ill former player who had been released from a Waterloo Hospital less than 24 hours prior to the shooting. Ed was in a room with about 20 football and volleyball players, many of whom testified at the trail of Mark Becher. Ed Thomas was shot 6 or 7 times according to the medical examiner. He also suffered many blunt force injuries to his head, chest, and legs, which were caused by being stomped on after being shot.
Tragedies like this one happen all too often in this country now a days. That is why the members of Thomas’ family approached the Iowa Legislature to consider legislation requiring hospital personnel to notify law enforcement before releasing a psychiatric patient facing criminal charges. On March 24, 2010, the Ed Thomas Bill was passed. This helps so things like this hopefully don’t happen as often as they do.
If you want to learn more about the Ed Thomas story, check out The Sacred Acre: The Ed Thomas Story by Mark A. Tabb.
Tabb, Mark A. The Sacred Acre: The Ed Thomas Story. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011. Print.