Dennis Thomas Formally Inducted into College Football Hall of Fame
Former Alcorn football student-athlete and alumnus Dr. Dennis Thomas was formally enshrined into the 2022 College Football Hall of Fame on Tuesday evening as part of the 64th NFF Annual Awards Dinner Presented by Las Vegas at the Bellagio Resort & Casino.
Joined by 22 fellow former coaches and student-athletes during Tuesday evening’s induction ceremony, Thomas took part in an official press conference prior to the dinner.
Also accompanying Dr. Thomas at the awards ceremony from Alcorn was Raynoid Dedeaux (Director of Athletics), as well as current football student-athletes Jarveon Howard and Keyron Kinsler, Jr.
Earlier in the fall, Dr. Thomas was honored at halftime of the Alcorn Football home game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, with an official NFF Hall of Fame On-Campus Salute, presented by Fidelity Investments. Their accomplishments will be forever immortalized at the Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, as each inductee received a custom ring created by Jostens, the official and exclusive supplier of NFF rings.
The only offensive lineman to ever be named the SWAC Offensive Player of the Year, Dennis Thomas was a looming force on Alcorn State's offensive line. The Heidelberg, Mississippi, native is the second Braves student-athlete to enter the College Football Hall of Fame.A two-time First Team All-American, Thomas earned the honor from the Pittsburgh Courier in 1972 and 1973 and from the Black Mutual Sports Network in 1973. The only offensive lineman to ever win SWAC Offensive Player of the Year honors, he put together such an impressive 1973 season that he beat out legendary College Football Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton (Jackson State) for the award. That season, Thomas was a First Team All-SWAC selection and received Alcorn State's outstanding offensive lineman award. He also blocked for freshman running back Augusta Lee, who would go on to become the school's all-time leading rusher (currently ranks second). Thomas lettered three seasons and started two years at center for Hall of Fame Coach Marino Casem. In 1970, he was redshirted on the Braves' SWAC championship team. In 1973, Thomas was named to the "Who's Who in America Colleges and Universities," and he was a member of the dean's list all four years of college. In 1974, the state of Mississippi declared April 15 as Dennis and Johnny Thomas Day. Following his collegiate career at Alcorn State, Thomas joined the Braves' coaching staff, and he helped Casem's teams win SWAC football championships in 1976, 1979 and 1984. He then served as the head football coach at South Carolina State from 1986-88. After earning his bachelor's degree from Alcorn State, Thomas later earned his master's from the University of Louisiana at Monroe and his doctorate from the State University of New York at Buffalo. From 1990-2002, he served as the athletics director at Hampton University, where he oversaw the school's transition from NCAA Division II to the Division I level. In 2002, Thomas was named NACDA's Athletics Director of the Year for the Southeast Region. Thomas served as the commissioner of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference from 2002 until his retirement in December 2021. As MEAC commissioner, he negotiated a multi-million dollar TV contract with ESPN and was instrumental in the creation of the Celebration Bowl, the annual game between the MEAC and SWAC champions. A 2020 Black College Football Hall of Fame inductee, Thomas also serves on the NFF Board of Directors.
The dinner was streamed live via ESPN3, while individual press conferences were conducted with each honoree. Dr. Thomas’ press conference can be accessed by clicking here.