Former Morgan State football coach and administrator Jesse Thomas, who served more than 40 years at MSU, died on May 16. He was 84-years-old.
Thomas’ coaching career dates back to the “glory days” of Morgan State’s football team. He served as the defensive coordinator under the legendary head coach Earl Banks, the winningest coach in the football program’s history. He was later named head coach of the MSU football team, holding the title from 1985-’87.Thomas also served as an assistant athletic director for Morgan, while coaching track & field and also served as the National Youth Sports Program (NYSP) coordinator for 28 years.
Before coaching, Thomas was an outstanding athlete. The native of Flint, Michigan was a four-sport star in high school, playing basketball, baseball, track and field and football for Flint Central High. His skills as an athlete garnered the attention of Michigan State University, where he would go on to play multiple sports for. Thomas won four first place finishes in a Big Ten Conference outdoor meet in 1951, and then won four first place finishes in the Big Ten Conference indoor meet the same year.
He was also named Honorable Mention All-American in 1951 as a member of Michigan State’s football while playing under head coach Clarence “Biggie” Munn. After college, he played professional football for the Baltimore Colts as a defensive back with legendary coach Don Shula.
Thomas is survived by his wife, Ida, and his daughter, Marzella. He is also survived by his two grandchildren, according to MSU Media Relations.
“Coach Thomas was a blessing for me to come out and work with the kickers or do anything that you was asked of him,” said Morgan State’s current football head coach Don Hill-Eley. Thomas served under Hill-Eley as an assistant coach during the 2010 season.
“Coach Thomas was very knowledgeable of the game and was great to be around with.
A lot of assistant coaches only knew the assistant roles, but he was a head coach and great athlete so he had a ton of insight that helped us a lot.”
Coach Hill-Eley said his players will miss Thomas the most.
“The players were hurt to hear the news because he served a father role to them,” Hill-Eley said. “He gave you tough love and told you what you needed to hear not just what you wanted and his former players appreciated him for that. He was just an all-around great guy and will definitely be missed.”