Demonstrates Excellence on The Field
On the field, Michael Thomas has been a team captain every year since 2016 with three different teams (Dolphins, Giants and Texans) and is one of the best special teams players in the NFL. Since 2015, he has led the NFL in special teams tackles (66), which included a single-season career high of 19 in 2016. Despite being an undrafted free agent out of Stanford and spending a year on the 49ers' practice squad, Thomas has played in 95 games (33 starts) and recorded 231 total tackles, 77 special teams tackles and three interceptions. He is only the second player in the NFL since 1994 to record at least 200 total tackles and 75 special teams tackles in less than 100 games played. After the 2018 season, Thomas was named to the Pro Bowl as a special teamer after notching nine special teams tackles and one forced fumble. In his career he has converted a fake punt attempt, recovered an onside kick and blocked a punt.
Demonstrates Dedication and Commitment to Community Efforts this Year
A Houston native, Michael has always been on the forefront of social justice initiatives; this year has been no different. The nine-year NFL veteran has excelled in his return to his hometown in 2020. Michael's approach has been two-fold, centering on advocacy and education, while driving legislative change in the community. Prior to Week 1, he created the unique design of the NFLPA's "END RACISM" pre-game warm-ups that have been worn by the 1,696 players across the NFL. After the death of George Floyd, Michael organized a Texans players-only video calling for social justice reform and he was featured in the NFL's "Say Their Stories" video to highlight the death of Philando Castile.
Along with education, Michael understands the importance of proper legislation after interning with Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and learning from his mother, Bernadette, who was a lawyer herself. Thomas helped carefully craft six action items that accompanied the Texans players-only social justice video in order to create real change. Not only did Thomas create these, but he also took it upon himself to act on them. Through social media and with the organization, he has consistently encouraged fans to vote through the "We Are Texans, We Are Voters" campaign. His "Victory Mondays" fundraiser has generated over $17,000 this season by auctioning off special game memorabilia and experiences to raise money for HBCU scholarship funds and the Dreambuilders Foundation. He also joined a Zoom with women who are battling breast cancer to offer words of encouragement as part of the Texans' Breast Cancer Awareness Month efforts. Thomas lost his sister NnZinga last year to breast cancer and spoke passionately about her life and how he was inspired by the women on the call who have been courageously fighting. Finally, Michael has established himself as a champion for youth and how they, too, can foster significant change.
He participated in the Boys & Girls Club of America Youth for Change Town Hall in October and has been the spokesperson for the Houston Texans Stats Challenge program, which uses football to encourage kids to enjoy math while emphasizing the importance of academics.
Demonstrates Dedication and Commitment to Efforts in Years Past
As a 2018 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award nominee with the New York Giants, Michael was highlighted for creating his annual "Camp Mike T," a free youth football camp held at Thorne Stadium in Houston. Throughout the camp's five-year history, it has served over 450 kids and included guidance on SAT/ACT prep, financial literacy and athlete activism. In 2018, Thomas gave away his second $10,000 scholarship to a camp participant. At the United Way of NYC Gridiron Gala in 2019, he was honored as the Hometown Hero for assisting the organization's efforts in raising over $2 million in New York City. His work with the United Way included serving as the spokesperson for the Giant's Character Playbook program, hosting the kickoff event at the World Preparatory Charter School in Staten Island and distributing backpacks with school supplies to hundreds of inner-city children.
Michael's continued work with social justice involved working with the Newark Bronze Shields, the African-American police officers association within the Newark Police Department, to host a discussion with local high school student athletes about the importance of academics, selecting college majors, sports related occupations and life after sports. He also partnered with the New Jersey Secretary General's Office to honor New Jersey colleges and universities who registered the most students to vote during the 2018 "Ballot Bowl" competition, encouraging everyone in attendance to be aware and engaged in their community. During his tenure with the Dolphins, Michael worked to unite local officials, community members and law enforcement by volunteering with the Van Duzer Foundation's First Step Program to start dialogue between community leaders and local teens every Tuesday. He then organized a town hall with the two groups through RISE (The Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality) and participated in ride-alongs with the Broward County Sherriff's Office. He was recognized for his efforts by Mayor Linda Hudson on Oct. 20, 2015 when she presented him with an honorary key to the city of Fort Pierce, Florida for his involvement in the community.
Demonstrates Consistency in Positive Character and Models a Lifestyle of Giving Back
Teammates, coaches, staff, fans and family members all acknowledge that the positive character and lifestyle Michael demonstrates is driven by authentic, genuine empathy. Michael's upbringing and devotion to be a model citizen helps him to discern what others are feeling. Whether in the locker room or at a community event, Michael makes each person feel valued by carefully listening, identifying commonalities and responding with grace. NFL players recognized this consistency when he was voted onto the NFLPA Executive Committee in 2018 and re-elected in 2020. As a husband, Michael is extremely supportive of his wife, Gloria, and her efforts in the Houston community, along with her dedication to their family. To his daughter, Genesis, he repeatedly exemplifies the power of compassion and being a figure that she can look up to, as well as exposing her to all of their community engagements. Finally, as a brother, Michael honors the memory of his sister NnZinga, who lost her battle with breast cancer in 2019 by being featured in the Houston Texans Breast Cancer Awareness Month event and encouraging those still battling to keep fighting. The Houston Texans are proud to nominate Michael Thomas as their Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year nominee.