First edition of an interview series between Voice of the Strong Paul ‘Boy Green’ Esden and members of the Syracuse Strong football team.
Throughout the Syracuse Strong season, the Voice of the Strong Paul “Boy Green” Esden Jr will interview a player, coach, or member of the front office. They’ll talk football, faith, family, and discuss a few fun topics.
First up: Syracuse Strong wide receiver Joshua Thomas.
Here’s what fans know about Joshua: he wears No. 3 on the field, he stands at 6-foot flat, weighs 175 pounds (we may have to double check that, only joking, sort of), and brings a lot of passion and energy to the team. But who is Joshua Thomas?
He joined the Strong four years ago when he was just 20 years old, but his story starts long before that. Joshua first started playing football when he was in high school and he started out in the backfield.
After his high school playing days, he put football on the back burner. Focusing on his studies (physical therapy and sports management), but that’s when Joshua’s entire life was thrown into flux: his grandmother got sick.
She was diagnosed with stage four cancer.
It took his mind off school, work and he had to put his life on hold so he could take care of his grandmother.
The reason why Joshua is the man he is today and the athlete he is today is because of his grandmother.
“She was an athlete, a leader in her community, she was a role model to her peers and her friends. My grandmother is with me every time I play this sport.”
Football became an escape for Joshua, but first, he had to prove himself. He joined the Strong four-years ago at the age of 20 and was quickly labeled a “pretty boy”, so he had to earn his respect. Here’s how he did that in his own words:
“That moment came in Week 1 vs Watertown. It was me and a teammate and I remember it like it was yesterday. We averaged 12 carries and combined had 136 yards and that was my moment. After that game, I knew I had to gain some weight if I was going to stay at running back. Surely enough though the coaching staff put me at wide receiver in my second game because of my speed. I had never played wide receiver before and it was really hard at first.
There are so many things that go into it:
- Route running.
- Learning the full route tree.
- Learning how to catch with just my hands and not my body.
It took me about two years of breaking it all down for it to become natural for me.”
Watching Joshua on the football field, you wouldn’t have guessed that he hadn’t been playing the position his entire life. Despite his small stature, Joshua has excelled at YAC (yards after catch). Once he gets the ball in his hands it’s all over.
But Thomas cares more about just scoring touchdowns nowadays, he has matured beyond his years. One of the biggest factors that drive him is being a role model for kids who watch him play. The Strong provides a platform and another option in lieu of drugs and violence.
Joshua was born and raised here in Central New York and he calls it a blessing to play this sport and inspire kids to do more with their lives.
When he’s on the football field he isn’t just playing for himself anymore. Joshua is playing with and for his family, coaching staff, and teammates.
For those who don’t know, the Syracuse Strong players that perform in front of a raucous crowd all season long at the Valley Sports Complex DON’T GET PAID. Joshua says he doesn’t care about
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that stuff. He plays the game “because it means more to him than life itself and I plan on playing this sport until I drop dead.”
But since he doesn’t get paid, he does have to work to make a living. Joshua during the day works at the Hancock International Airport. He handles baggage and in his own words says he lifts cumulatively around 1000 pounds a day.
Working at an airport isn’t for everyone, but it’s the perfect job for a guy like Joshua. Thomas enjoys meeting people: kids, other athletes, random people, and customers alike.
In his DNA at a bare-bones level, Joshua just loves making people smile.
If you take anything from this conversation, perhaps this line will do it:
“Life is too short and is too amazing to always walk around sad or upset. It’s a blessing to be alive and to wake up in the morning and smell the air. I try to live life to the fullest.”
Believe it or not, Joshua Thomas wasn’t always the All-Star athlete you see before you…
At the Valley Sports Complex, it isn’t unusual to see No. 3 break several tackles and score multiple touchdowns on any given night. But it wasn’t always that way.
“When I was growing up I wasn’t the pick first athlete, I was normally picked last. I was the kid who was at the lunch table playing games and I wasn’t that athlete. People have been telling me all my life that I’m not this or that. It took a toll on me but I wanted to prove those people wrong.”
Which is not only a huge source of pride for Joshua, but it feeds back into being a role model. If JT was picked last when he was a kid and worked his butt off and now routinely he’s picked first, anyone can do anything they set their mind too.
Joshua Thomas on his new quarterback Jason Boltus:
“Jason Boltus is an amazing quarterback. He brings it all to the table: his IQ, his passion, his coaching, his mentality, and vision for the game of football itself is pure. This is rare, you don’t get that combination of qualities often. The chemistry between us is key as a quarterback and wide receiver. He doesn’t criticize you, he coaches you and makes you better. There have been times with me as a four-year vet and he’s coming in here as a rookie and has told me different ways I can attack a defensive back. He’s got a great confidence about him.”
Who does Jason Boltus remind Joshua Thomas of?
“Peyton Manning. His ability to read the defense pre-snap. When I see Peyton Manning, I see Jason. The way Boltus prepares, the way he idolizes the position of football. He isn’t afraid to change the play based on what the defense tells him, even as a rookie. I’m excited about what we have in store for this season.”
Syracuse Strong fans got a sneak peek Week 1 vs the Charlotte Colonials. Jason changed several plays at the line of scrimmage, the most notable being the first touchdown of the Strong season. Jason noticed a flaw in the Colonial defense, motioned Rashad Burns to the opposite side of the formation and he found his way into the endzone for the touchdown.