Former MSU Coach-Administrator Thomas dies at 84
Jesse Thomas, who died at the age of 84 last Wednesday, spent more than 40 years at Morgan State University.
While at Morgan State, Thomas was the defensive coordinator for legendary head coach Earl Banks and was Bears’ head coach from 1985-87. In addition, he worked as an assistant athletic director, coached track & field and was the National Youth Sports Program (NYSP) coordinator for 28 years.
Thomas was an outstanding athlete who participated in basketball, baseball, track and football during his prep career at Flint Central High School in Michigan, making him possibly the greatest four-sport star in the school’s history.
During his high school days, Jesse was known as a triple threat performer in football as a result of his ability to run, pass and kick. Some of his achievements included: All-Valley, All-City and All-State in 1945. He was also City Athlete of the Year in 1945. He was the State broad jump champion in 1945, and set records as best hurdler (14.9) and City Pole Vaulter (12’2″). In 1946 he was undefeated in 16 events, and had the most outstanding performance in the State meet.
Thomas earned All-Valley second team basketball honors in 1946. He was also an outstanding pitcher in baseball at Central and the Flint City League.
Not only was he a fine running back, but he was also a defensive standout. His great exploits continued at Michigan State University. Thomas received Honorable Mention All-American in 1951 while playing under head coach Clarence “Biggie” Munn.
As a member of Michigan State’s track team, he won four first places in a Big Ten Conference outdoor meet in 1951. That same year he won four first place finishes in the Big Ten Conference indoor meet. He once ran a 9.6 in the 100-yard dash.
During a two-month tour of Japan, he represented the United States Amateur Athletic Union and earned 33 medals. He bettered the hop-step-jump AAU record with his 47 feet 8 inches. Thomas played professional ball with the Baltimore Colts as a defensive back with Don Shula (Miami Dolphins coach), Carl Taseff and Bert Rechicher in 1955-1957.
Some of the highlights of Jesse’s 1945 school year included:
• Touchdowns run from scrimmage-95, 84, 70 and 90 yard touchdown through four tacklers and reversed his field, causing the opponents coach to remark “he wasn’t tired, can you believe it.”
• Punt returns of 62 and 59 yards in the same game for touchdowns.
• Passing for touchdowns of 40, 46, 53 and 60 yards.
• Finished second in scoring in Saginaw Valley.
Thomas most recently finished up as an assistant professor at Morgan State and was the Kicking Coach under head coach Donald Hill-Eley in 2010.
Thomas is survived by his wife, Ida, and his daughter, Marzella. He is also survived by his two grandchildren.