NFL Star Talks About The Biggest Pain He Endured and His Path On How He Became Who He Is Today
Written By: Alyssa De La Cruz
Editor: Katie LeLasher
Solomon Thomas, a 27-year-old, defensive NFL player for the New York Jets, he has been part of the NFL family since 2017. When getting ready for the interview with me, he sets up his telephone smiling from cheek to cheek, a sense of happiness is present. He exuberates excitement. Solomon speaks about the challenges he faced through his journey of life and his professional career.
Thomas is heavily-built, one could easily tell he is a player of a sport, specifically football. However, when researching who Thomas is, the information does not show or reflect the one big challenge he was faced with at the time when he lost his sister Ella. Nothing could have gotten him ready to face losing his best friend, the best admirer he ever had, his partner in crime sort of speak, his older sister, Ella.
In 2018, Solomon lost his sister, Ella, to suicide, a very common cause that many Americans suffer from. The passing of Ella taught him and his parents the importance of truly being able to “Understand mental health issues. As a family they have learned how to open up more about what they dealt with'', said Thomas. Thomas also admits that there were times when he had to pull himself back and focus on his health, and also “Being more than just an NFL player, telling my sister’s story, motivating others from their pain and suffering.”
Via: Cecilia Macris (Publicist)
In 2021, Solomon and his parents established the Defensive Line Foundation. The focus of the foundation is to help, “Young people of color, dealing with mental health issues because the rates of suicide are too high and starting too young”, said Thomas. Through his foundation, children can talk about their issues and look for help. Thomas says that losing his sister to suicide felt like he and his parents were “Thrown into the world of mental health, the awareness, and the understanding of mental health issues, anxiety, and depression are a real thing”, that needs more focus.
Thomas says that other factors in his life have allowed him to develop different perspectives of life and places he has lived such as Coppell, Texas. Living in Texas he learned and felt racism. The racism was because Thomas’s mother is white and his father is African American, “My family and I dealt with both racism in school and our neighborhood, [but my] father always told us to have our eyes open”, said Thomas. Another reason they felt racism was that Thomas’s father was always gone due to working most days, “I was told one day at school that I should ‘hang’ myself because my mother is white and my father is black”, said Thomas. It was easy to see that as Thomas explained the racism he dealt with in Texas, he still feels uncomfortable speaking about it.
Despite having to deal with the pain caused by losing his sister, Ella, and dealing with racism in most places, Thomas can give a trait of comfort to others. Sandy Williamson, a family friend who works alongside Thomas’s foundation, explains that he projects a sense of comfort when meeting him even though he may seem intimidating, “But when I see him, there is always a sweet hug and a ‘Hi Miss Sandy’ - I think he'll always just be one of the kids.” But there is also a side of him where he is, “an introvert, shy person”, said Thomas. Thomas stated would rather spend time with his mother and stay home than have to go out to make friends but then one day he decided to play football and out he went.
To be a football player was not a goal for Thomas, because, at a younger age he had a little bit more love for basketball. Thomas stated, “Moving to Texas, [seen as a] chubby to big kid, people used to say in the community where I lived, “How is this big kid not playing football?”. Until Thomas’s sophomore year of high school where he received his first offer from the University of Colorado, it was then he realized his potential with football. For Thomas being able to receive an offer so early in his high school playing years, it gave him a sense of “Motivation because [he] could make it to the next level”, said Thomas. Then came Thomas’s senior year of high school and by now he had many choices and decisions to make between schools such as Arkansas, UCLA, Texas, Colorado, and Stanford. He chose Stanford because “It had lots of opportunities, [he] saw the campus and fell in love, crazy academics, the great school they were winning festivals (college football game festivals) at the time, and of course, my parents highly wanted for me to choose Stanford”, said Thomas.
“I knew he was going to be successful. I asked him to autograph a football when he was in high school, I hid a tree (Stanford’s mascot) under the table before the press conference when he announced he was signing with Stanford”, said Williamson.
While attending Stanford, Thomas had to learn time management. His time with sports, studies, and life outside of those two priorities. He explained “Dealing with time management was difficult. Freshman year was my hardest, saying no to things when I needed to get things, and couldn't get my extra workout in.” One way he was able to prioritize was by writing out his schedules.
When asked to describe Thomas in three words, each one of his friends said “Dedicated” which is the same thing Thomas says about himself, because as of today he is “Dedicated.”
“I can't even comprehend the level of dedication Solomon has - to his game, his teammates, his team, and to himself. You have to win, you have to be the best and accept nothing less. I learned long ago that saying ‘It's just great that he made it to the NFL’ means nothing. He's there for a reason and that's winning. They (his family and him) all have the same attitude about The Defensive Line - very driven to make the organization the best it can be, impact people, and save lives! And I've seen Solomon with that same dedication off the field as well, he is a loyal, dedicated friend”, said Williamson.
“He is 1000% dedicated to anything he does whether it’s football or mental health initiatives and the foundation. His vulnerability makes him who he is today. He has a special relationship with his parents, adores them, and always tells them how much he loves them. I love the relationship Solomon and I have because he always tells me how much he appreciates the work I am doing for him”, said Cecilia Macris, Thomas’s publicist from EAG Sports Management.
Via: Cecilia Macris (Publicist)
Thomas may be dedicated to others but he will always thank his parents for that trait, “Seeing the struggles they dealt with, the pain they have been through, and still being able to save people’s lives, makes them the most inspiring and strongest people I know” said Thomas.