Pierre Thomas: Running Back to the Fans
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - They’re the people that make the Superdome a truly one of a kind experience: Saints fans. It’s unique group of costumes, colorful personalities, and most importantly, passion.
That emotion feeds the players what they need to play at a high level. For guys like Pierre Thomas, a true underdog, it meant everything.
“Without these fans, I wouldn’t be Pierre Thomas of the New Orleans Saints,” says Thomas.
So when Thomas realized his playing days were over, he wanted to find a way to give back to everyone that reached out to him, starting by personally responding to boxes of fan mail.
“I shipped off maybe about 300,” says Thomas. “And I had more, a lot more to go.”
That’s a big undertaking in itself, but he still wasn’t satisfied after leaving the game in 2015.
“As I’m reading these letters, they’re telling me about who they are, and I’m kind of intrigued,” says Thomas. “I wanted to show them that I am a person as well.”
So he hit the road on trip that would see him crisscross the United States. From Smithfield, Rhode Island to Tyler, Texas and many stops in between, Thomas now went running back to the fans, literally.
It began with Jennifer and Abigail Mayfield of Fishers, Indiana where Thomas did on his first surprise stop in 2017.
Mayfield wrote Thomas when her daughter Abigail was sick in the hospital.
“Speechless, I could see her look inside the house, and she’s looking at Abigail,” says Thomas. “Then she put her hand over her mouth, and I just see her smile. Seeing something like that, that just brought joy to my heart that could surprise someone.”
Thomas’ second stop was Minnesota to meet Rick Rodline.
“Rick was a fan,” says Thomas. “He was a collector. He had so many collections.”
But instead of surprising his fan...
“His wife told me that he passed a way not too long ago, and that hurt,” says Thomas. “It hurt me. I don’t know Rick that well. Only reason it hurt is because I was too late. He wrote me, and I was too late to thank him in person.”
Thomas quickly realized this visit wasn’t supposed to be for Rick, but for his widow.
“It was amazing talking to her,” says Thomas. “She shed a tear. It almost made me shed a tear. I was trying to hold my composure for her, but I was just happy that she allowed us to come in and talk and speak of Rick in a positive way to help lift her spirits in a positive way about him and see that he touched somebody in this world with his letters.”
The long road took him back east, this time Rhode Island to meet Lori Wright, who is as passionate about the Saints as she is about rescuing animals from the streets.
“(You have) no idea how much that means to me,” said Wright through tears.
“She almost made me cry as well,” says Thomas. “Just to see the joy in her face and say thank you so much for seeing me, that really showed that what I’m doing here is the right thing.”
And it became even more apparent in Hellertown, Pennsylvania where Thomas popped in on Cody Wargo.
“I would say on this trip, Cody was probably the super fan out of the people that I met,” says Thomas.
Wargo’s also the one Thomas said played a big role in getting the trip started with his letter.
As fate would have it, they’d actually spoken on the phone after Cody won a contest for being a super collector of more than 50 different Pierre Thomas trading cards.
Unfortunately on that same day, Cody also received some sad news.
“The one negative is that just hours before I spoke with you, I found out my parents were getting a divorce,” Cody said in a letter written to Thomas. “So that was a dark spot of the day. I always considered it to be the best and worst day of my life.”
“For a person like him to tell me that I helped give him courage and helped him fight through adversity in a tough time when he saw how my career was going, it helped lift his spirits,” says Thomas.
Thomas then took his tour to Tyler, Texas where he knew he had to find Candace Dunn to clear up a mix up from his playing days.
“I just got a Nike deal,” says Thomas. “My agent sent a FedEx envelope for the Nike contract. Also, Candace sent in a FedEx envelope. Both had return envelopes. So I took both of them out. I knew my Nike was here. I knew Candace, her package was here, which was a jersey for her daughter. I remember signing the jersey. The only issue was, I accidentally swapped the return envelopes.”
So Candace never got that jersey for her daughter. To make it up, Thomas took the jersey he wore during the Saints Super Bowl Parade, framed it and delivered it himself.
“That’s something that her and her family will never forget,” says Thomas.
But Thomas will certainly never forget his next stop in Florence, Mississippi where he had an emotional connection with John Bonner and his family.
“We were on our way out,” says Thomas. “And his mother said, ‘You don’t understand how much this means to him. You showing up like this means so much because he hasn’t left his room in three days.’
“He suffers from PTSD. Meeting John, it was thrilling to hear his stories of his tours and things that he went through. He was in a vehicle, and the vehicle that he was in ran over a mine and blew up. I can’t imagine something like that. I’m just glad that I can do my part to say thank you for your services and thank you for being a fan.”
Thomas’ tour ended right here in Louisiana with three more stops visiting Lance Terro, Christine Pellebon and Jill McGaughey. It was a fitting ending in the state where he made life long fans during his eight years in the black and gold.
“That’s why I really wanted to give back, because just writing back isn’t enough,” says Thomas. “I had time. I was retired. It wasn’t enough just writing. I really wanted to go see these people and thank them personally face-to-face.”
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