ALDINE -- Michael Thomas watched with approval from the side as the play developed: a crisp double-move where a budding young wide receiver convincingly sold the route before accelerating past the defensive back for a touchdown pass lobbed over his head.
The NFL veteran free agent safety and special-teams ace saluted the skillful maneuver during his sixth annual, two-day Camp Mike T youth football and leadership camp for middle school and high school student-athletes Wednesday morning at W.W. Thorne Stadium.
Fully cleared from a torn pectoral suffered last season while playing for the Texans, the Stanford and Aldine Nimitz graduate and NFL Players Association executive committee vice president is giving back again in the community. As the 31-year-old prepares for the NFL season. Thomas is talking with multiple NFL teams about opportunities and would welcome rejoining the Texans.
For now, Thomas' primary focus is providing valuable lessons about football along with academics, including SAT and ACT testing preparation, financial literacy and life skills in partnership with the Aldine Sports Foundation he founded.
“This is probably our biggest turnout, and it all started back when I was in middle school saying to myself, ‘I wish NFL players would come back and give back to my school,’” said Thomas, whose camp is supported by the Aldine Independent School District, the Texans and NFL charitable foundations and countless volunteers in the community. “I made a promise to myself. Now, every single year, I come back and have a youth football camp and give out awards. This is about letting them know someone who’s been where you’ve been, played in the same stadiums and walked the same hallways as you can make it to the NFL and have success. So, you can do it, too.”
Thomas’ camp wraps up Thursday with a high school group competing on the field, academic counseling sessions in the classroom and lessons about how to handle financial issues, college applications and a forum to address any concerns. Every year, Thomas awards a scholarship.
“We have an open session with the kids to hear from them and what they’re going through,” Thomas said. “That’s become one of the more popular parts of Camp Mike T. What I love about this camp is you get the kids out here and you get to pour it back into them. Giving them this platform, that’s what Camp Mike T is about: a chance to showcase their talents. Especially in my hometown of Aldine, when these cameras come out, they showcase their talents and show out, that’s the fun part. You can hear everybody get excited.
“I wish I had that growing up. You look at the other school districts, Katy and Cypress, they’re staying together, practicing together and competing since they were kids. We want that for our kids in Aldine.”
Thomas is feeling good and looking lean, a man with an official clean bill of health from Dr. James Andrews since he performed his procedure last season.
The two-time Pro Bowl special-teams ace was cleared medically during a checkup with Andrews in Pensacola, Fla., after hurting his chest last season and undergoing surgery to repair the damage. Thomas toughed it out and played the entire second half of a loss to the Cleveland Browns after tearing his pectoral.
“I feel amazing, the pec is feeling good, my body feels healthy,” Thomas said. “I’m excited for the opportunity when it comes. Texans, whoever, come get me. My agent (Christina Phillips) told me a couple of teams have been poking around. I’m excited to see where I’m going to wind up and I’m going to be ready. I would love to go back with the Texans. We’ll see.”
Thomas was voted a team captain and played in nine games and recorded 16 tackles before he got hurt. Since going undrafted, Thomas has 313 career tackles, three interceptions and four forced fumbles in 97 career games with 33 starts in stints with the Texans, Miami Dolphins, New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers. He played last season under a one-year, $1.193 million contract..
Thomas said he's in optimal condition.
“Exactly, that’s something I put a focus on is making sure I was definitely lean,” Thomas said. “I want to go out there and compete. I’m known for my leadership and I’m known for being able to put us in the right kind of defenses and execute on third down. I want to make sure that speed and that quickness is there, too.”
Aaron Wilson has covered the NFL for 20 seasons, including the Texans, Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars. He has previously written for The Houston Chronicle and The Baltimore Sun. He’s on Twitter: @AaronWilson_NFL and Instagram: @aaronwilson7128.