GILES COUNTY High School Principal Don Thomas was projected to be a second or third-round draft pick for the Atlanta Falcons until a back injury in college changed the direction of his career.
Thomas played football in high school and college, earning a spot on the Lincoln County High School Hall of Fame and the Middle Tennessee State University’s (MTSU) Athletic Hall of Fame. A back injury in 1988 prior to Thomas’ senior season at MTSU led him to his first back surgery, then two more after the season. His challenges in college led to an even greater reward later. Thomas spent his first five years coaching and teaching at Lincoln County High School after college. The team experienced tremendous success, with a State Championship, multiple “Mr. Football” winners playing the position he coached, and college scholarship recipients.
Thomas said going into education allowed him to stay close to football by coaching on the high school level.
“There’s God, family, and then the sports.”
Thomas later became the head coach at Lee High School in Huntsville, Alabama. His journey through Huntsville came with great success. There, he led the team to multiple victories and a player was an eventual first-round draft choice in the NFL. He remained there for five years.
He moved on to teach and coach at Lavergne High School in Tennessee for five years of continued success, with multiple scholarships awarded and eventual NFL players. He then moved on to serve Marshall County High School for three years. He continued his legacy of coaching numerous award winners, leading his players to earn scholarships and another eventual first-round draft choice in the NFL.
After his time at Marshall County High School, he moved back to Lincoln County for ten years, moving into administration, and serving as an assistant principal. He has been the principal at Giles County High School for three years.
Thomas has worked in the education career field for 30 years and was a member of the Education Association. He said along his journey, he learned that everyone has an opinion, but you have to be able to get your idea across and help people believe in what you’re expressing.
He said, “It was always about giving back to the kid, and what can we do to improve situations for them.”
Education is very important to Thomas. He said it is a pathway to teaching students to be responsible young adults and mature community members.
He said his focus was always on serving his students and the community.
“You have to get the community to believe in what you’re doing.”
Thomas’ achievements led him to an induction into the Fayetteville Hall of Fame Waltz in October 2022.The Hall of Fame Waltz commemorates individuals who have gone above and beyond to represent the community positively.
It is an honor that many look forward to; it is a catalyst for community members that recognizes outstanding performance and unwavering dedication to bettering the community.
Thomas said, “It’s not about the individual. It’s always about the community and the people around you.” GN