S.C. State plays 55-year-old running back
(STATS) - The Savannah State players congratulated South Carolina State's Joe Thomas Sr. afterward and called him "Pops."
The oldest player in the history of Division I college football felt great about the acknowledgment. He also would have answered to "hero."
The 55-year-old senior walk-on got into a game for the first time this season, carrying the ball four times for negative-one yard in South Carolina State's 32-0 win over Savannah State in Orangeburg, South Carolina.
His team presented Thomas with a game ball.
"I felt like a hero," said the native of Blackville, South Carolina. "It was certainly one of the happiest days of my life. I always wanted to play college football and I finally got the chance. And I thank South Carolina State, coach (Buddy) Pough and the entire coaching staff and my teammates for the opportunity. I had been waiting 36 years.
"I always said, 'Never give up on your dreams. Keep driving forward and don't listen to other people.' It's a great day for me, but I must admit, I didn't think my situation would generate so much attention and so much positive response."
Thomas entered the game with just under five minutes remaining in the first quarter and picked up three yards on his first carry. He also carried the ball three times on the final possession of the fourth quarter.
His 25-year-old son, Joe Thomas Jr., was a former All-MEAC linebacker at South Carolina State who plays for the Green Bay Packers.
South Carolina State (4-6) will conclude its season next Saturday against Bethune-Cookman.