Before the start of the 2016 season, his second with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Julius Thomas made a vow. The standout tight end committed to improve at-risk youth literacy in Duval County, Fla.
As the son of a high school principal and an avid reader, Thomas found joy in pouring his passion for education back into the local youth. And the results mirrored much of the success that he has found on the field as a two-time Pro Bowler.
Thomas’s latest efforts saw him open his second reading nook at an Episcopal Children’s Service Early Learning Center in December, providing hundreds of donated books for the children and paving the way for him to be named Week 17 NFLPA Community MVP.
“The reason I give back to the community is because I am a product of the community,” Thomas said. “I know the difference an individual can have on someone’s life. And I want to be that difference.”
Judging by the numbers produced by his Read To Achieve initiatives during the season, it’s safe to say Thomas did indeed make a difference. Through donation matching and reading challenge programs, more than 15,000 books were donated, more than 1,000 hours of books were read by students and two brand new reading nooks opened across Duval County.
Because he understands the importance of the first three years of schooling, Thomas has plans to expand his Read To Achieve program throughout the Duval County school district. But his community outreach won’t stop there.
Thomas also recently participated in the Boys and Girls Club’s Thanksgiving dinner and took a handful of at-risk youth on a holiday shopping spree at Target with some of his Jacksonville Jaguar teammates. In the past, he has also made a practice of adopting two in-need families from the Boys & Girls Club and providing them with gifts from a wish list.
“The men, women and peers that sacrificed to help me reach where I am means so much to me,” said Thomas, who was also named NFLPA Community MVP in 2014. “It taught me an example and has inspired me to give more of myself.”
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