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Beaver for a day

Duck football star De'Anthony Thomas shares life lessons with Beaverton High students


by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE  - Beaverton High student Rob Lavey gets an Oregon Ducks jersey autographed by De'Anthony Thomas during a talk in his marketing class on Monday.Growing up as the oldest of five siblings in a one-parent home on the hardscrabble streets of Crenshaw, California, De’Anthony Thomas’ path in life might have gone several ways.

In a city riddled with drugs, gangs and violence, Thomas could’ve succumbed to his unfavorable surroundings, delved into an otherwise negative situation and possibly become a product of the system.

Yet, even at a decidedly young age, Thomas chose to be a positive example for his younger brothers. As he grew older and became a household name on the Southern California football scene, and later a star on the University of Oregon football team, Thomas developed into a leader in the community, a shining light for those around him hoping to better their respective situations. His work ethic and drive to become something superior, something bigger, were legendary, dating back to when Snoop Dogg baptized him as “The Black Mamba” as an 8-year-old tearing up Snoop’s Youth Football League in 2005.

Be positive. Be a role model. Work hard, and good things will come.

Thomas stuck to these principles not only on the gridiron, but in the classroom and community as well, helping him escape the difficulties of Crenshaw and grow into the prospective NFL Draft pick he is today.

It’s a message an open and candid Thomas shared with a large group of sports marketing students at Beaverton High School on Monday. The class had all eyes and ears on the 5-foot-8 speedster, who shared his life story and discussed what it took for him to be the successful young man he is today, on the doorstep of realizing a lifelong dream. Weaving in and out of different subjects as easily as he dodged defenders on the national stage, Thomas was a crowd-pleaser with his good-natured cool, keen sense of humor and outgoing personality.

“I just do this out of my kindness,” said Thomas. “I feel like I have a message, and I can relate to a lot of kids. It’s just great for me to be in their ear about life and how to be successful.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE  - De'Anthony Thomas gives a talk with a Beaverton High School marketing class during an appearance on Monday.

Reaching out

McKenzie Hargens’ sports marketing class was asked to bring in a guest speaker, and while most of her classmates selected their parents, the senior wanted to go “a step above and do something cooler.” So, messing around on the Internet one day, Hargens — who comes from a family that “bleeds green and yellow” and who has been a Duck fan “since being in the womb” — found Thomas’ contact email on Twitter and reached out to the former All-American asking him to speak to her class. An hour later, Hargens got a call back, saying Thomas was in the Beaverton area training at Nike’s campus and would welcome the opportunity to share his story of success and perseverance.

“Watching (Thomas) since his freshman year, I’ve been obsessed with him,” said Hargens. “Speed-wise, athletic-wise, aesthetically, I just love him. He was posting on Instagram about talking to schools, so I was like ‘Why wouldn’t he talk to mine?’ It’s awesome that he came out here. Everyone was paying attention and listening to what he had to say. It was a great experience.”

From staying in school and getting an education, to being portrayed as an optimistic representative in both the BHS hallways and in various athletic arenas, Thomas’ statement seemed to hit home, particularly with the Beaver athletes dotting the audience.

“Like (Thomas) said, football is all about being a leader,” said Beaverton quarterback Sam Noyer. “It’s about showing the guys you care about ’em, and being inspirational — not just on the field, but in the classroom as well.”

“I like how he said you have to get past failure instead of letting it bring you and your team down,” said Beaverton lacrosse player McKenzie Crawford. “We’re the oldest school in Beaverton, so to have somebody pretty new and up-and-coming is really cool.”

“You have to be dedicated and work hard for what you want because dreams do come true,” added wide receiver Stephen Marcille. “You always want to be a good role model. I think that’s super important. That’s something De’Anthony was. He motivated himself to be in class and motivated others. He always worked his hardest.”

As a team that’s eyeing big things next fall, the Beaver football players said Thomas’ talk will act as a sort of springboard into the offseason and into the vital summer months when they start training for next season.

“Everything he said, I think we as a football team will take to heart,” said Marcille. “We have big goals next year. We want that Metro title and a state title. Knowing that he took the time to come here, I think can motivate us to work a lot harder next year.”

“We learned about the importance of hard work and focusing on your goals through adversity,” said Beaver running back Chidubem Nnoli. “We have to learn from what he told us and apply that to our game.”by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE  - De'Anthony Thomas takes pictures with Beaverton High School students during an appearance on Monday.