“I was surprised when I saw him because he had shot up and he got real big,” said Thomas. “I was asking what happened and he said he just stopped playing outside and played more video games.”
Thomas’ surprise visit with his relative spurred him to action and he looked into ways he could help fight childhood obesity.
“I saw it as an area I could help out in this world,” said Thomas. “I wanted to start battling the epidemic of childhood obesity. Kids today have so many video games, television shows etc. It has really slowed down our youth.”
To help prevent childhood obesity, the Saints veteran running back established the iCAN Foundation in June.
The mission of the foundation is to “identify, evaluate and promote healthy nutrition and physical activity to diminish the growing epidemic of childhood obesity and to create a more active lifestyle within today's youth through various programs.”
Thomas said he played videos games as a child but spent most of his free time outside riding his bike and playing basketball, baseball or football. In high school, the Chicago native played baseball and football and ran track his senior year.
“I used to travel everywhere on my bike as a kid and I couldn’t play enough sports,” said Thomas. “I was all about just having fun with my friends riding around. These days, kids are really into watching TV and playing video games and aren’t spending much time outside. I am not saying don’t play video games but you should balance that with being outside for an hour or two each day.”
The iCAN Foundation will host youth football camps that teach the fundamentals of each position.
Thomas hosted a camp at his alma mater, T.F. South, in Lansing, Ill. in late June. The camp lasted more than two hours and hosted 100 plus kids.
“The camp went great,” said Thomas. “Along with giving the kids an opportunity to play football, I tried to teach them ‘don’t think you have to be the best but do the best you can. Work hard and if you aren’t working, cheer on the guys that are.’”
Along with his foundation, Thomas also looks to inspire others through a clothing line he partnered with – Angry Hero.
Thomas teamed up with his cousin Quentin Crockett and friend Dane Jordan to run the company, which started in 2004.
The Angry Hero logo is of a cartoon hand holding up the peace sign with stitches on the index finger. Thomas said the stitches represent the things in people lives that discourage them from pursuing their dreams.
“An Angry Hero is someone that when they get stressed or angry, they look for the positive in the situation,” said Thomas. “They find that loop hole around that anger instead of being angry at the situation. The logo signifies that individuals should fight through that anger, the stiches, and be at peace.
“We are trying to tell people to control their anger. A lot of stress can lead to unhealthy habits. We want to encourage people to look at things positively and limit the stress in their life.”
As a 5-11 undrafted running back, Thomas has always had doubters. He was told he was “too small” to play in the NFL coming out of the University of Illinois. Now as a six-year veteran, he is hoping to maximize the platform he has as an NFL player to help and motivate others through the iCAN Foundation and Angry Hero clothing line.
“In my life, I was always told I couldn’t play this game because I was too small,” said Thomas. “I always tell kids, you can do whatever you put your mind to. You can do whatever you want to do in your life but it starts with you believing in yourself.”