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A Decade Later: Former Players Remember Aplington-Parkersburg’s Ed Thomas

PARKERSBURG, Iowa -- Monday marks 10 years since the murder of Aplington-Parkersburg's football coach Ed Thomas.

On June 24, 2009, 24-year-old Mark Becker, a former football player and diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, entered the morning weightlifting session and shot his coach, Thomas, seven times in front of 22 young players.

A decade later and Coach Thomas and his legacy are still in the forefront of everything his former players do. With time, they say there is healing, but that doesn't mean June 24 is a day that’s easy to forget.

“I don’t think anybody ever forgets what happened. They’ve worked hard to get to where they are at today and I don’t think it ever slips there mind, and mine too,” Jimmy Clark said.

Clark was preparing for his senior football season at Aplington-Parkersburg back in 2009, when his football coach was shot and killed.

“You know, you go through so much and you can find out a lot about yourself after you go through so much adversity, but Coach talked about that [adversity] every day,” Clark said.

That adversity was witnessed one year earlier. Parkersburg was hit by an EF-5 tornado. Coach Thomas was at the helm, rallying his community back together.

“After the tornado, he kept saying ‘we got to dust ourselves off, get ourselves up and move forward,’ and this truly is no different,” said Aaron Thomas, Ed Thomas’ son. “The tough days, I just think about my three boys and the 22 young people who were in that weight room that day that experienced that murder. [I] also think what would my dad expect or want out of me and that’s how I get through.”

Aaron Thomas doesn't deny his dad was a competitor, developing multiple NFL caliber players and a winning culture, but what he truly cared about was developing high character.

“To him it was all about making better young men and he was so into that and that’s what really mattered,” Thomas said. “His success was based on what do these guys look like in 5 to 10 years, when they become husbands, leaders in their community. The wins just came with it because of what the program stood for.”

One of the men working to keep Coach Thomas' legacy alive, former player, and now Falcon's head football coach, Alex Pollock.

“Things are changing, but we're hoping things aren't changing too much,” Pollock said.

When he first took over the program in 2010, he had to lead players once coached by Thomas. Now his roster just knows the stories and sees the message Thomas hoped to leave behind.

“The values and stuff that Coach Thomas instilled in the program, the school, and the community, we’re hoping that we’re continuing those today even though it’s been 10 years after his death,” Pollock said.

All three of these former players are now a part of the plethora of men following in Coach Thomas' footsteps, now coaches themselves. Aaron Thomas is the boy’s head basketball coach at Aplington-Parkersburg, where he is also the current principal. Alex Pollock is about to enter his 10th season as the Falcons’ head football coach. And Jimmy Clark is a sophomore football coach at Southeast Polk.

All three are hoping to carry on all the things Coach Thomas taught them and inspiring their own student athletes.

“A man of faith, a guy who loved his family, who impacted others, was passionate in what he did, and just happened to also like football,” Aaron Thomas said.

“I mean that’s just what he stood for. I still wear this bracelet today, [it says] “faith, family, football” and many people still [wear it] too. That’s truly what he stood for,” Clark said.

“I’d like to think Ed would be really proud of who we are as a community, and the type of people that we’re trying to raise; the young people that we’re trying to raise here,” Pollock said.

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