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Hard-Hitting NFL Safety Reveals Softer Side 'Extended Version'

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


[MUSIC PLAYING]

REPORTER: 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 of stuff.

REPORTER: 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?

I've seen my mom got burned by an iron by a dude.

REPORTER: Shamarko didn't trust men around his mother,

so when she married Abdul Rahim Shabazz, he didn't like him.

But over time, they slowly began to bond.

I think football brung us together, you know?

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

on dates and stuff like that.

I'd never seen that before with another man.

REPORTER: The family grew with the edition 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?

Cheated on my mom and--

Did they separate?

Separated.

My dad separated.

He moved with the lady.

REPORTER: The first man Shamarko had ever trusted

left his mother with six children to raise by herself,

and he was furious.

And 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 started 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 going to do stuff like that.

REPORTER: 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.

I was just out there trying to have fun and chill

with my friends and fight.

And fight?

You just wanted to fight?

Right, man.

I used to fight all the time, every day.

Why?

Just to get my anger out, you know?

REPORTER: 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 wanted to make him feel comfortable

and kind of reward him for feeling comfortable with me

without even knowing me.

He didn't never let you in.

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

where things started to reveal themselves.

REPORTER: 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 that.

REPORTER: 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 the joy.

You know, that's the first time I seen

her cry of joy instead of pain.

And that just changed my whole life.

REPORTER: 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.

My mom's like, your dad's dead.

She crying on the phone.

I just started crying.

I hang up the phone.

I'm like, man, he's gone now.

And I can't even say, I forgive you.

You know?

We all make mistakes in life.

REPORTER: Shamarko's stepfather was killed

in a motorcycle accident.

After his funeral, he returned to school.

Though he was grieving, the pain he felt over his stepfather

would pale in comparison to what was about to come just nine

months later.

My mom called me.

She's just checking on me like some regular stuff.

I'm trying to go party.

She was like, I just want to tell you I love you.

You're my chosen one, you know?

And if anything happen to me, you know,

I just want you to live out your dreams.

And I'm like-- I'm just throwing it off like, OK, Ma.

You know?

I got you.

REPORTER: The next day, Shamarko received a voicemail

from his younger brother.

He's like, Mama gone.

And man, [SIGH] I lost it.

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

He returned home as quick as he could

to be strong for his 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 sit in that room.

I couldn't stay in that room.

Man.

That's my best friend, right?

Mark, why couldn't you?

SHAMARKO: Hm?

Why couldn't you?

Because everything I did was for her, you know?

And just to see her laying in that casket

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

You know?

I'm not going to see her like that.

I couldn't.

I couldn't at all.

I thought my life was over.

You know?

What's the point of me living if my mom's not here, you know?

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

Like this jewelry on this thumb, this don't mean nothing to me.

This don't mean nothing to me.

I'd rather have my mom here, you know?

So seeing her in that casket, it was the most painful feeling

in the world.

You spoke at the funeral?

SHAMARKO: Oh, yes.

I spoke.

My coaches always wondered why I worked so hard, you know?

Why I'm in the weight room every day

when people are not in there.

Why am I on the field?

Why am I running hills?

So I got on the stand, and I told them.

I said, now y'all see why.

Now you got to see why.

Y'all see why I give everything my all,

because of that lady right there in this casket.

This is why I can't take no break.

This is why I can't take no break because she never

took a break.

Never.

Never.

My mom-- you talking about Christmases.

We used to have nothing but Salvation Army clothes.

My mom used have Christmas tree with popcorn on it

and hangers on it.

But we was going to have a Christmas.

You know?

It was stuff like that, you know, that people didn't see.

REPORTER: After the funeral, Shamarko

considered giving up school and football

to take care of his siblings, but Mrs. Riccio convinced him

otherwise.

And I always said to him-- and I still to this day say

to him-- is that what your mom would want you to do?

And he thinks for a minute, and he stops himself.

And he's like, she would not want me to quit school.

And after that moment, when she told me that,

there wasn't nothing else to say.

There wasn't nothing else to say.

I was going to get my butt back on the flight.

REPORTER: His grandmother agreed to take care of his siblings

so that he could return to school.

When he got there, 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 in it.

I just started watching.

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

talk about a God and stuff.

And then, I started 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 started doubting.

With all my parents, 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.

REPORTER: 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, 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.

REPORTER: Shamarko knew that he could

lean on the Lord for strength as he continued

to achieve his NFL dreams.

And he worked harder than ever.

SHAMARKO: That was my mindset from that point on.

Nobody's going to out-work me.

Y'all thought I worked hard then.

Y'all going to see now.

I promise you, nobody will outwork me.

Nobody.

REPORTER: He had a stellar senior season at Syracuse,

becoming one of the top safeties entering the 2013 NFL

draft where he was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

And of course, Ms. Leslie, Coach Scott, and Sergeant Bernstein

were there to hear his name called.

And we all cried.

And it was a truly, truly special day

to know that all of his hard work had finally paid off.

To say how proud I am cannot be put into words.

But just tremendously thankful for him

being an inspiration to us all.

I feel like I was a small part of it

because I feel like he's always had it within him to be that.

He just needed somebody to show him that he could.

REPORTER: 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 is taking a step with me.

And I am God's soldier.

So the faith is everything for me.

And I could promise you that, right?

That will never change, no matter how many days I doubt

or 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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