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Hard-Hitting NFL Safety Reveals Softer Side

Shamarko Thomas talks with CBN Sports about the faith that sustained him when both his mother and step-father passed away within 9 months of one another. Read Transcript

NARRATOR: NFL safety Shamarko Thomas

has built a reputation for himself

as an aggressive, hard-hitting player with a work

ethic that many would argue is second to none.

His go out and get after it attitude

is one that he acquired growing up in Virginia Beach, Virginia

with his mom and five siblings.

Describe what your mom was like.

How do you remember your mother?

She was the ultimate leader.

She was my father and my mom.

My mom was different.

She wasn't the mom that, oh I love you type.

She was that tough mom.

Oh boy, you better get up, no crying type stuff.

NARRATOR: Shamarko's mother, Ebeth, gave birth to him

when she was 15.

He didn't really know his father.

Growing up, he saw things no child should have to witness.

My mom had boyfriends that I remember

we used to hide out from them.

Stuff like that, you know.

Then my mom got burnt by an iron by a dude.

NARRATOR: Shamarko didn't trust men around his mother.

So when she married Abdul Raheem Shabazz, he didn't like him.

But over time, they slowly began to bond.

I think football brought us together, you know.

And just seeing the way he treated my mom, taking her out

on dates and stuff like that, I've

never seen that before with another man.

NARRATOR: The family grew with the addition of his sister

and four brothers.

For him, life couldn't be better.

Until his father violated his mother's trust.

He broke her heart, you know.

He cheated on the mom and--

Did they separate?


My dad separated and he moved with the lady.

NARRATOR: The first man Shamarko had ever trusted

left his mother with six children to raise by herself

and he was furious.

My mom working at McDonald's and stuff, you know.

So, I think that all the anger inside of me just built up

and I just start hanging around with the wrong crowd

and doing the wrong things.

Honestly, I was telling my mom, oh, I'm going to sell drugs,

I'm gonna do stuff like that.

NARRATOR: As he entered Ocean Lakes High School as a freshman

football player, his mother was too busy with work

to help keep him out of trouble.

So he always seemed to find it.

So I was out there just trying to have fun, chill

with my friends and fight.

And fight?

You just wanted to fight?

Fight, man.

I used to fight all the time, every day.


Just to get my anger out, you know.

NARRATOR: His activities grabbed the attention of school faculty

members Jim Prince and Chris Scott,

Shamarko's football coaches, as well as

Leslie Riccio his guidance counselor,

and Sergeant Adam Bernstein, the school's resource officer.

They all intervened to help him deal

with his anger and the reasons behind it.

Instantly, I was drawn to him and I thought,

this kid is going to be my project for this year.

I mean, I want to make him feel comfortable

and kind of reward him for feeling comfortable with me

without even knowing me.

He would never let you in.

But when he knew that you cared, then that's

where things started to reveal themselves.

NARRATOR: During that year, Shamarko

had a few encounters with Sergeant Adam Bernstein.

But one day after school, he caught

Shamarko in a street brawl.

The next day, called him down to his office.

I sat him down and I said, there's

a lot of colleges out there that will give you

a free education if you use football

and if you're good enough.

And, he was like, I care about you

and I want to see you succeed.

I felt like somebody really cared, especially an officer,

you know.

Where I'm coming from, you know officers don't like us.

Now I read somewhere that both of you

broke down and started crying.

Is that true?

Yeah, I didn't want to say it.

NARRATOR: Those words hit home for Shamarko.

By his senior year, he was an honor roll student,

was elected homecoming king, and set records

for tackles, interceptions, and defensive touchdowns.

He accepted a scholarship offer to play football

for Syracuse University.

Sitting there signing that paper and veering to the left

and seeing my mom cry, you know, joy.

You know, that's the first time I've seen

her cry of joy instead of pain.

And that just changed my whole life.

NARRATOR: When Shamarko arrived at Syracuse,

he quickly built a reputation for his work ethic and hard

hitting style of play.

But the spring of 2010 ushered in a season

that would crush him harder than any hit

he ever delivered on the field.

And it began with a call he received from his mother.

She was like, I just want to tell you

I love you and you're my chosen one, you know.

And anything happened to me, you know,

I just want you to live out your dreams.

I'm just throwing it off like, OK, mom.

I got you, you know.

NARRATOR: The next day, Shamarko received a voicemail

from his younger brother.

He's like mama's gone.

And man, I lost it.

NARRATOR: Shamarko's mother died from a massive heart attack.

He returned home as quick as he could

to be strong for five siblings.

And he managed to do so until he went to view his mother's body.

It was only two seconds.

But I couldn't-- I couldn't sit in that room.

I couldn't stay in that room.

That's my best friend.

Why-- why couldn't you?


Why couldn't you?

Because everything I did is for her.

And just to see her laying in that casket

not breathing no more, it was like what do I have left?

You know?

And I couldn't see her like that.

I couldn't at all.

I thought my life was over, you know.

What's the point of me living?

My mom's not here, you know?

I want my mother to have a house, big house, car.

This jewelry on and stuff, it still means nothing to me.

It doesn't mean nothing to me.

I would rather have my mom here, you know.

NARRATOR: After the funeral, Shamarko

considered giving up school and football

to take care of his siblings.

But his grandmother was able to take care of them

so he could return to school.

He began looking for something to ease the pain in his heart.

So he turned to some of his Christian teammates.

One day I just started getting interested,

and I just started watching.

And I'm like, I'm going to go sit here and listen to them

talk about God and stuff.

And then I start hearing the solutions

and my answers in people as they was talking.

That's when I realized I really had to find out who God was,

you know.

Like, can I believe in you?

Because I ain't gonna lie, I started doubting.

When my mom passed, I'm like, God don't love me at all.

He can't love me.

He can't love me.

He put me through all this?

NARRATOR: Shamarko learned that the only way

to truly heal the pain in his heart

was through a relationship with God.

So one night, he began praying and committed his life

to Jesus Christ.

I'm like, God it's whatever your plan is

and whatever you got planned for me, show me and I see,

you know.

I said, let your will-- your will be upon me.

NARRATOR: Shamarko knew that he could

lean on the Lord for strength as he continued

to achieve his NFL dream.

And he had a stellar senior year,

becoming one of the top safeties entering the 2013 NFL

draft where he was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Today, he's with the New York Jets,

he's married with kids of his own,

and his work ethic remains the same.

As he reflects back over all he's had to endure,

he knows that his mother would be proud of him

and that God's love never fails.

I know every step I take, God's taking the steps with me.

And I am God's soldier.

So the faith is everything for me

and I can promise you that that will never change no matter

how many days I doubt how many days I cry or be in pain

or what I go through.

I know God is standing right beside me.



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