Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Thomas Ready for Role in Middle; Fourth-Year Player Taking over for Injured Posluszny against Miami

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Thomas Ready for Role in Middle; Fourth-Year Player Taking over for Injured Posluszny against Miami

Article excerpt

Byline: Vito Stellino

Sunday will be a special day for J.T. Thomas.

He makes his first start at middle linebacker - and just his fourth in the NFL - against the Miami Dolphins at EverBank Field in place of injured starter Paul Posluszny.

"I'd be lying if I didn't say this was a dream come true," Thomas said. "Everybody wants to play middle linebacker."

As it turns out, Thomas, 26, knows something about making dreams come true.

He's in his fourth year in the NFL but received the most notice for something he did off the field - taking an eighth-grade girl in a wheelchair to her school dance in 2011.

It happened because Thomas, who played at West Virginia, was working out in Morgantown during the lockout after he was drafted by the Bears.

His brother Jared, who was then 7, is autistic and rides a bus for children with special needs. Bus driver Jacob Tennant told Thomas' stepmother, Rochelle, that a girl in the wheelchair, Joslyn Levell, who has spina bifida, was a Bears fans and asked if her stepson would sign an autograph for her.

So she arranged for Thomas to get on the bus, and he signed some autographs and gave the girl a hug. When he asked how life was treating her, she explained she hadn't been able to get a date for the junior prom.

The girl hoped Thomas would ask her, but Thomas wasn't picking up on that. So his stepmother got the school's permission and arranged for Thomas to call her and she accepted.

Thomas rented a black Chrysler and arrived with a bouquet of roses and a corsage. The feel-good story received a lot of national attention from media outlets ranging from ESPN to the Huffington Post.

Thomas has a foundation (J.T. Thomas Foundation) that promotes leadership education, youth sport and awareness of children's disability. He's also involved in the HEAL Foundation - Healing Every Autistic Life - that serves individuals and families in Northeast Florida living with autism spectrum Disorders.

"A lot of my focus is creating awareness about autism,'' he said. …

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