Former Braves player Dennis E Thomas set to enter College Football Hall of Fame

Published 11:46 am Tuesday, January 11, 2022

LORMAN, Mississippi —  The National Football Foundation has announced that Dr. Dennis E. Thomas, center for the Alcorn Braves from 1971-73, will soon be enshrined as a member of the class of 2022 in the College Football Hall of Fame. Thomas was the only offensive lineman to ever be named the SWAC Offensive Player of the Year. The Heidelberg, Mississippi, native becomes the second Braves player to enter the College Football Hall of Fame behind Steve “Air” McNair.

A two-time First Team All-American, Thomas earned the honor from the Pittsburgh Courier in 1972 and 1973 and the Black Mutual Sports Network in 1973. Thomas put together such an impressive 1973 season that he beat out legendary College Football Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton (Jackson State) for the award. That season, Thomas was a First Team All-SWAC selection and received Alcorn State’s outstanding offensive lineman award. He also blocked for freshman running back Augusta Lee, who would become the school’s all-time leading rusher (currently ranks second). 

Thomas lettered three seasons and started two years at center for Hall of Fame Coach Marino Casem. In 1970, he was redshirted on the Braves’ SWAC championship team. In 1973, Thomas was named to the “Who’s Who in America Colleges and Universities,” and he was a member of the dean’s list all four years of college. In 1974, the state of Mississippi declared April 15 as Dennis and Johnny Thomas Day. 

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Following his collegiate career at Alcorn State, Thomas joined the Braves’ coaching staff, and he helped Casem’s teams win SWAC football championships in 1976, 1979 and 1984. He then served as the head football coach at South Carolina State from 1986-88. After earning his bachelor’s degree from Alcorn State, Thomas later earned his master’s from the University of Louisiana at Monroe and his doctorate from the State University of New York at Buffalo. From 1990-2002, he served as the athletics director at Hampton University, where he oversaw the school’s transition from NCAA Division II to the Division I level. In 2002, Thomas was named NACDA’s Athletics Director of the Year for the Southeast Region.

Thomas served as the commissioner of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference from 2002 until his retirement in December 2021. As MEAC commissioner, he negotiated a multi-million dollar TV contract with ESPN and was instrumental in the creation of the Celebration Bowl, the annual game between the MEAC and SWAC champions. A 2020 Black College Football Hall of Fame inductee, Thomas also serves on the NFF Board of Directors.