Kitsap's Thomas is setting his football hopes high

Jackie Thomas of the Kitsap Bears would like to play college or arena football in the future. - Brian J. Olson/Staff photo
Jackie Thomas of the Kitsap Bears would like to play college or arena football in the future.
— image credit: Brian J. Olson/Staff photo

KINGSTON — The ranks of semi-professional football are teeming with players who hope to be the next Rudy Ruettiger.

Bremerton resident Jackie Thomas of the Kitsap Bears stands out among that group. At 190 pounds and just over six feet tall, he’s a tad undersized for the big leagues. But he hasn’t let that dampen his optimism.

“I don’t think that’d be a problem,” Thomas, 26, said at practice Wednesday. “It’s not a problem for DeSean Jackson, and he’s about my size, and he’s with the Philadelphia Eagles.”

Thomas joined the Bears, who play their home games at the North Kitsap Stadium in Poulsbo, in 2009. It was his first foray into the sport, and he made an immediate impact at the wide receiver position.

“He’s one of our best players,” Joe Disney, the team’s defensive coordinator, said of Thomas. “He’s got a lot of raw, natural talent that you just don’t find in everybody.”

Disney is also impressed by Thomas’s attitude and work ethic.

“He’s always out here trying to help someone get better and trying to help the team chemistry,” Disney said.

On top of talent and attitude, Thomas has geography on his side. He comes from a town known for breeding success. Ferriday, La., has less than 4,000 people but claims to have churned out more famous people per square mile than any other small town in the country. Some well-known residents include musician Jerry Lee Lewis, CNN’s Campbell Brown and evangelist Jimmy Lee Swaggart, among others.

Thomas’s athletic ambitions began on the basketball court, where he played shooting guard for Ferriday High School. Though he loved the sport, he often dreamed of gridiron glory.

“I always knew how to play (football),” Thomas said, “but my momma thought I was too little, so she never let me play.”

Thomas joined the Navy after high school and was stationed at Oak Harbor in 2003. In 2007, he came to work as a cook and later a security guard at Naval Hospital Bremerton. He played in the local Army-Navy flag football game after his arrival and one of his teammates took note of his talent. Keimo Pelegri, a tight end with the Bears, invited Thomas to practice. Soon Thomas was catching touchdown passes for the team.

Next month, Thomas will be out of the Navy. He’s still not sure if he will stay local or return to Tampa, Fla., where his wife and children live. He would like to be near family, but staying here could afford Thomas the chance to attend a school he’s had his eye on for a while: the University of Washington.

“I just like that they’re always underdogs,” Thomas said of the Huskies. “Plus I’d love to beat USC every year.”

There’s no guarantee Thomas would be able to walk on with the Huskies even if he enrolls in classes at the UW, so he’s keeping his options open. He’s considering schools in Florida, as well as other football opportunities.

“If other things come up, like getting a chance to play arena football, I’ll look into those too,” Thomas said.

However things turn out, Thomas is happy for the success he’s had on the field so far.

“No injuries,” he said with a laugh. “So far I’ve been proving Momma wrong.”

The Kitsap Bears play their next home game at 7 p.m. July 24 at the North Kitsap Stadium in Poulsbo.

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