Date of Birth
Alcorn State University (1971-1973)
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 player 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. He put together such an impressive 1973 season that he beat out legendary College Football Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton (Jackson State) to win the SWAC Offensive Player of Year. 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 went on to become the school's all-time leading rusher. Thomas lettered three seasons and started two years at center for Hall of Fame Coach Marino Casem. Thomas was named to the 1973 "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. Thomas joined the Braves' coaching staff and 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.
- 1973 First Team All-America
- 1973 SWAC Offensive Player of the Year
- 1972 First Team All-America
Class of 2022
Billy Jack Murphy