Fort Osage grad Sima Thomas waits for a pro football opportunity
Sima Thomas was sweating and working hard – but he was smiling, because the Fort Osage High School graduate was back in his element.
The only difference was that the former Pittsburg State All-American defensive lineman was working with a group of pint-size players, rather than tossing around 350-pound tackles like they were rag dolls.
Thomas, who was an all-state standout on the Fort Osage football team that won its first state championship in 2015, went on to enjoy a stellar career at Pitt State before graduating in 2020.
Now, he's looking for a football home to continue his playing career. And while that quest continues, he teamed up with his former state champion teammate Elijah Penamon at his first Speed & Sport Youth Football Camp at the Independence Athletic Complex this week.
"We did quite a few camps when I was playing at Pitt," Thomas said, "but this is the first one I've done since I graduated, and I know I enjoyed it as much as the campers."
Thomas and former Blue Springs two-time state champion and two-time Simone Award winner Dalvin Warmack, a former Kansas State running back, joined other instructors in running the camp for kids ages kindergarten through eighth grade.
"We really got after it the second day, working on some position drills and things like that and the kids really responded," Thomas said. "It was so cool – the mother of one of my former Fort Osage teammates brought out her godson, and after the camp she thanked me for participating.
"And I told her, 'No, thank you and all the football moms who did so many things for us when we were playing.' They provided anything the players needed, they fed us, looked after it – they were a part of that big Fort Osage family."
Thomas enjoyed an all-state senior season at Fort Osage, finishing the 2015 campaign with 76 tackles, 10 sacks, 27 tackles for loss and 11 quarterback hurries.
The Indians went on to dominate Chaminade 63-28 to win the first state championship in school history. Thomas was named The Examiner's Defensive Player of the Year and the state's Class 5 Defensive Player of the Year.
He followed that state championship performance with the most dominating performance in the history of the Greater Kansas City Football Coaches Association’s Kansas vs. Missouri High School All-Star Game as he had 11 tackles, five sacks and two tackles for losses to lead Missouri to a 28-24 come-from-behind victory.
“I told Sima’s parents (at the pre-game dinner) that he was going to win the Defensive Lineman of the Game MVP Award,” Missouri coach Tom Kruse told The Examiner after the 2016 all-star game. “Sima was unbelievable. I saw that intensity in practice and it carried over into the game.”
And then carried over to Pittsburg State, where he was a four-time all-conference performer, a two-time NCAA Division II All-American, a three-time Super Region Player of the Week and one of the most dominating defensive linemen in the history of that storied program.
"Looking back on high school and college is great – some of the best times of my life," Thomas said. "But I'm not living in the past, I'm looking forward to the future and I hope some kind of professional football is in my future."
He was excited about a tryout with the National Gridiron League's Arkansas Twisters (the National Gridiron League is a proposed gridiron football league which has had its first season postponed three times) at a bubble facility in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
"I paid for my way to Fort Wayne, got there early to see what was going on and to meet some of the guys, and found out from the hotel concierge that the league had not made any accommodations for any of the players on any of the teams," he said, shaking his head.
"Live and learn, but that was so disappointing. That dream didn't come true, but I'm not giving up. I'm working out every day with Alphonso Hodge at his Do Work Factory 2.0 and I'm going to be ready when I get the call."
In the meantime, he's making an impact on the lives of young football players from across Eastern Jackson County.
As one young camper walked off the field to greet his father, he said, "That big coach (Thomas) was so friendly and he taught me so much. This is the most fun I've ever had at a camp."