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In the New York Times bestseller The Sacred Acre, the Ed Thomas Family (along with author Mark Tabb) courageously tells the amazing story of high school football coach Ed Thomas’ life and legacy. Thomas famously helped rebuild the Aplington-Parkersburg High School football field after a devastating tornado ripped through Iowa in the spring of 2008, but was then tragically murdered by a former player in the summer of 2009.
Three of Thomas’ former players are currently in the NFL. One of those, Aaron Kampman, spoke to Inspiring Athletes this summer. You can read that interview HERE. You can also check out the Inspiring Athletes interview with Coach Thomas’ wife Jan and his son Aaron by clicking HERE.
Most recently, Inspiring Athletes caught up with former Aplington-Parkersburg High School player Casey Wiegmann who is currently the starting center for the Kansas City Chiefs. The 15-year NFL veteran and one-time Pro Bowl selection has started every single game since 2001 and has tallied 10,000 consecutive snaps. Wiegmann talked about Coach Thomas’ influence, how his death impacted him and what he hopes his own legacy will be one day:
Chad Bonham: What do you remember most about playing for Coach Ed Thomas?
Casey Wiegmann: I remember the grueling conditioning we did. Mondays were the worst. We generally did about a hundred up-downs and sit-ups and push-ups. It wasn’t much fun. But he was very detailed. He had the scouting report ready to go every Monday. Everybody (we were playing) was a stud and had speed. It was funny because we’d get these scouting reports and they’d always say things like, “Monster. Got speed. Very physical.” He was a football coach through and through because that’s what he studied all the time.
Bonham: Can you look back and see how your time spent with him impacted you and how his influence has shown up in who you are now?
Wiegmann: There’s a lot of stuff. I’ll give you an example of something that happened last year. At (Aplington-Parkersburg) you never took off your helmet for anything unless you go for a water break. I’ve been engrained with that. So here I am at year 15 in the NFL and after practice everybody gets in the huddle and Coach (Todd) Haley talks to us all. I still have my helmet on. He gets done talking and I’m getting ready to walk to the locker room and Scott Pioli, our general manager, stops me and asks me why I kept my helmet on. I said, “It’s just what I learned from Coach Thomas.” And he goes, “I love that about you and what you stand for.” Just a little thing like that was engrained in my head because of a coach.
Bonham: What’s one of the lessons you learned from Coach Thomas that still resonates with you today?
Wiegmann: Going into my senior year of high school, I was working at a lumberyard and I wanted to quit halfway through the summer because I didn’t like building houses and getting on the roofs and hammering nails. So I went to Coach Thomas and I told him, “I can’t do this. I want to quit.” It didn’t take him but two seconds to spit out, “If you quit on this one thing, you’re going to quit on other things in life down the road.” Believe it or not, I still use that to this day, whether it’s on the football field or if I have something go wrong at home. There’s so much stuff that the guy passed on to people. It’s bad because you take the stuff for granted when you’re young. I learned probably more from the last five years that I had with him than any other time.
Bonham: How did his strong faith inspire you?
Wiegmann: It was pretty obvious what the guy stood for. He was who he was. He was a man of faith. He didn’t hammer it down people’s throats but if he could express something in a certain way, he was going to do that. When practices were on Wednesdays, they never went long. Kids were always given enough to time to get cleaned up so they could make it to church. That stuff, a lot of people just take for granted. But for coach, that was his priority. He wanted to make sure his kids were getting to church.
Bonham: How did his death personally impact you?
Wiegmann: It took a second father away from me. Yes, he was a coach and a mentor. But it was almost like a second father being taken away from me. I respected him so much. I’ve got some photos of Coach in my three-year-old’s room. I always point to them when I’m giving him a bath. I’ll say, “Who’s that?” And he says, “Coach Thomas.” Hopefully when he gets a little bit older, I’ll be able to instill into my kids all the core discipline, the character, the commitment and all the stuff that Coach preached to us.
Bonham: What’s impressed you most about how the Thomas family has publicly handled the situation?
Wiegmann: It amazes me every time I start watching stuff and I read stuff. I’ll text Aaron Thomas right away and say, “You amaze me more and more.” It just keeps going on and on every time something happens. Even yesterday, I was on Coach’s foundation’s website and there was a thing about them being on Fox & Friends and I watched it. You can just see the way they get in front of people and command respect for what they believe in. That’s what Coach taught them to do. It happened immediately after the shooting. I don’t know if I could do that. Yes I learned from Coach to try and do what’s right and everything, but that’s hard to do. This family has stepped up and now we’re trying to carry on his tradition through his foundation. Aaron’s played a big role in that and Todd (Thomas) has too. It’s crazy what the family has done.
Bonham: What will you want people to remember you for when you finally step away from the game?
Wiegmann: I was dependable and I was there for the other guys. I wasn’t going to let them down. It’s what Coach preached to us—to be there for your teammates and to do anything you can for them. That’s what I’ve tried to do my entire career. It hasn’t been easy, starting undrafted and having to work my way up. But as soon as you get your chance, you’ve got to take advantage of it.
Bonham: What do you plan to do with your life once you finally hang up the helmet?
Wiegmann: I’ve thought about that a little bit. My answer right now is what it’s been the last year. I’ll take a little bit of time off and think about what I want to do, but I definitely want to get into high school coaching. I’m not sure if I’d rather be a head coach or an assistant, but I want to make sure that I give back to the kids and try to set an example of what Coach Thomas did. If you can just affect one kid, the world is going to be a better place. He affected so many kids. So hopefully I can have an impact like that.
Learn more about the Ed Thomas Family Foundation by visiting the official website HERE.