55-year-old man fulfills dream of playing college football

Joe Thomas Sr., courtesy of ABC News
Joe Thomas Sr., courtesy of ABC News

ORANGEBURG, S.C. (ABC News) — 55-year-old walk-on Joe Thomas Sr. fulfilled his dream of getting to play in a college football game Saturday when the South Carolina State Bulldogs put him in late in their 32-0 victory over Savannah State on senior day.

Joe Sr. is the father of current Green Bay Packers linebacker Joe Thomas Jr.

With 4:34 remaining in the first quarter, Joe Sr. got the handoff and ran for 3 yards. He finished the game with four carries for a negative 1-yard rushing. After the game, the team presented him with the game ball.

“I felt like a hero,” Joe Sr. said. “It was certainly one of the happiest days of my life. I always wanted to play college football and I finally got the chance. And I thank South Carolina State, coach [Buddy] Pough and the entire coaching staff and my teammates for the opportunity. I had been waiting 36 years.”

Joe Jr. was scheduled to fly with the Packers to Washington for their game against the Redskins on Sunday when his father got the call.

“I am a little worried,” Joe Jr. said. “I know his body might be a little fragile. I’m going to try to get the coach not to run him on one of those stretch plays. I’m going to try to get him to run straight downhill.”

Joe Sr. was an entrepreneur in South Carolina, running a construction company and a gym until the recession hit in 2008. He decided four years ago to pursue a degree in engineering, and while attending, he decided to walk on to the team where his son played from 2010 to 2013.

Joe Sr. had been practicing with the scout team.

“I never thought you’d see a 55-year-old running back,” Joe Jr. said. “I’m just proud of him. He made his mind up to do something and stuck to it.”

Never miss another Facebook post from 8News

Find 8News on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram; send your news tips toiReport8@wric.com.