A lot has changed for Michael Thomas since he last played football in his hometown of Houston.
Since his senior season at Nimitz High School in 2007, Thomas played football at Stanford, graduated with his Master's in Business Administration (M.B.A.) from Miami School of Business in 2016 and persevered to become a veteran NFL safety. He will kick off his eighth NFL season back where it all began - in Houston, Texas.
"One, coming back to play for Houston, I can't even really fully explain it but I never even thought this would be a dream come true for me until I actually signed," Thomas said Wednesday. "Just seeing all the love and appreciation I got from my family, friends I grew up with, people who might have known me just from following my career from when I was playing at Nimitz, it was overwhelming."
Thomas, signed by the Texans as a free agent on April 27, spent the last two seasons with the New York Giants, where he was named special teams captain and earned a Pro Bowl nod (2018), and his first five seasons with the Miami Dolphins (2013-2017). But now, the 30-year-old special teams standout is opening up about the personal tragedies that he dealt with off the field.
"Dedicating this season to my family because we were going through a lot of hardships these last few years," Thomas said. "We lost my sister, NnZinga Thomas, and she was only a year and three months older than me to breast cancer last September. We're still mourning but it was tough for me because I wasn't here in Houston with my family. I came down for the funeral but had to leave and go back to New York."
Eight months later, Thomas lost his mother, Bernadette, who dealt with post-stroke symptoms for years and early onset Alzheimer's disease.
"It was just tough and the last two years it took a turn for the worse and she ended up passing away a couple months ago," Thomas said. "We buried her the day before Mother's Day, and that's been tough, but to actually be here with my family in Houston, I think that's going to be something that helps the healing process and I'm going to dedicate this season to them. Everything that I can do to help my family cope with it. I know by playing in Houston that's going to bring them joy, just to be around me, to be around everything. I'm going to use this season to uplift my family."
Through 88 games with 33 starts, Thomas has recorded 223 tackles, 160 solo, 11 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks, four quarterback hits, three interceptions, 15 passes defensed, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Thomas also added 74 tackles, 57 solo and two forced fumbles on special teams.