(ST. JOSEPH) Missouri Western has had its share of defensive standouts, but for those who didn't get to see safety Pierre Thomas play, head coach Jerry Partridge could sum up what he meant to the Griffons."I don't know if we've ever had as big of a defensive player, ever, that's played for us," he said.
A turn-of-the-millennium talent, Thomas was the measuring stick for MIAA defenders during his career from 2000-2003. He racked up MWSU career marks in interceptions, a Division II record for interception return yards, and others.
This weekend, he claimed his spot among the Griffon elite as a member of the 2013 Missouri Western Hall of Fame Class."This is home for me," he said. "This is where it all started. I came in as a freshman, I played great, and it all just went on from there."
Despite the consistency over his career, capped by a stellar senior campaign in which he picked off a record 14 passes and became the program's first consensus All-American, he exited the college game without an MIAA Defensive Player of the Year honor.
Both he and Partridge said that may have had something to do with his brash demeanor on the field."He did not make a whole lot of friends with other teams in how he acted at times during games," Partridge said. "He was a little bit flamboyant and I think it rubbed coaches wrong."
"I wore my heart on my sleeve," Thomas added. "Maybe I talked too much trash but that's just the way it goes sometimes. I backed it up, so it worked out."
What his career did do is pave the way for future impact Griffon defenders like David Bass and secondary brethren Shane Simpson and Mike Jordan, who could prove to be the best pass-defending talent since Thomas.
But when it comes to the reigning conference Rookie of the Year, Thomas wasn't afraid to say where he thought his skills would stack up.
"He'll probably be better. He's a lot younger, man. Kids nowadays, it's a different ballgame."
Thomas bounced around a couple teams in ArenaFootball2, the AFL's developmental league, following his college career and now lives in Texas with his wife and two daughters.
He says he still makes an effort to make it back for at least one game every season, and the leap the program has taken in the 10 years since his departure is what impresses him the most.
That's all the more reason for him to take pride as one guy who helped lay that groundwork.
"To play four years at this college and then to come back and see it is now, how it's boomed and how it's grown, it's awesome."