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Earl Thomas is the favorite son of a tro

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# 27.11.2017 - 07:45:36

This story appears in ESPN The Magazine's Dec. 4 Thanksgiving Issue. Subscribe today! Just outside of Seattle, way up near the forested, snow-frosted peak of Cougar Mountain, Earl Thomas III stepped out into the front

yard of his $2 million six-bedroom home on a chilly November afternoon. Even today, eight seasons into a career with the Seahawks that seems destined for NFL immortality, Thomas can barely believe he has made it all the way up -- almost literally -- to the top of the mountain. "I was just standing out there," he recalls one recent morning. "And I'm like, 'Man, I'm in the mountains. I'm so blessed.'"

Cougar Mountain is a long way, in every way, from the start of Thomas' odyssey. Orange, Texas -- 2,500 miles away on the Louisiana line -- is nothing like Seattle: no mountains, barely even hills; almost never any snow; and whatever natural beauty the area boasted has been sacrificed to the ceaseless demands of the petrochemical and lumber industries. The town of 18,500 is in the heart of a region, still in a post-oil-boom decline, waylaid by three storms in 12 years, including Hurricane Harvey most recently.
Orange also has a bedeviling legacy as one of Texas' most palpably inhospitable regions for black people, a town where Confederacy enthusiasts recently erected a monument on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, to be seen from Interstate 10 and the 55,000 cars per day that pass by.
The partially completed project has hit roadblocks but had overwhelming support in a poll conducted by a local newspaper. "There's still a fair amount of racial tension in the area, far more than I've seen in other parts of Texas," says Ginger Gummelt, social work professor at Lamar University in nearby Beaumont. "In no way has it progressed like in other parts of the country."
But Orange still has football, which might be the thread holding it all together. It's been an anchor when Orange was almost literally adrift, a distraction when the oil boom finally dried up in the 1980s, an emblem to the outside world when there wasn't much else to brag about. And, of course, it is what connects Thomas to his town, to such a degree that it makes him a rarity, even among his NFL peers. "Guys will donate money," teammate Richard Sherman says. "But they're not as involved. He is uncommon."
Thomas' largesse in Orange has become the stuff of local legend. He holds a free summer football camp that draws hundreds of children. Last fall he chartered two buses for townsfolk to attend his alma mater's third straight state championship game appearance. He sponsors giveaways for Thanksgiving turkeys and winter coats. And those efforts are only the ones that he, a famously private man, allows us to see.
That civic devotion began Jason Pierre-Paul Youth jersey with his grandfather, the late Earl Thomas Sr., who built a church in Orange's roughest section -- the East Side -- proclaiming it the "church where everybody is somebody." A man of few words and endless drive, Earl Sr. had a ninth-grade education and worked at the same grocery for 50 years. He didn't have much in his will to pass on to his six kids and their families. Instead, their inheritance was one of compassion for a place that can be as hard to live in as it is to love.
It's why Thomas' dad, Earl Jr., has spent weeks hanging drywall in homes battered by Harvey's winds and 34 inches of rain. It's why his mom, Debbie, is an unpaid church secretary after retiring Antoine Roussel Authentic Jersey from a local school district. And it's why Earl III often spends time in the offseason with kids in neighborhoods that are otherwise forgotten.
"He's always tried to help people," says Essie Bellfield, an 85-year-old civil rights activist who helped integrate Emmanuel Ogbah Womens Jersey Orange and became the city's first black mayor in 1997. "Which is the way he was raised up."
From Earl Sr. on down, helping people is his family's legacy. But when pulled up and away by his own talent and hard work, how much does Womens Tarik Cohen Jersey a man owe to his hometown?
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