Living The Dream: 55-Year-Old Running Back Plays In D1 College Game

It’s never too late to live out your dreams. 55-year-old Joe Thomas Sr. proved that this weekend. The South Carolina State running back had a 3-yard carry in Saturday’s game against Savannah State.

The first half carry happened on senior day, making history as the oldest player to participate in an NCAA Division 1 Game. Thomas is also the oldest walk-on running back for South Carolina State. His son, Joe Thomas Jr played there from 2010 – 2013. He’s currently a linebacker for the Green Bay Packers.

When asked about his dad participating in the game, Joe Jr. admitted that he was a little nervous about his safety. “I am a little worried,” Joe Jr. told ESPN. “I know his body might be a little fragile. I’m going to try to get the coach not to run him on one of those stretch plays. I’m going to try to get him to run straight downhill.”

The back story to Joe Sr. joining the Before the recession wiped out his job, Joe Sr. was an entrepreneur in South Carolina with a construction company and a training facility. Four years ago he decided to go back to school and pursue a degree. He’s studying engineering

Joe Sr. helped his son make a highlight reel and used some connections to give him a shot as a walk on at South Carolina State. It was a good project for Joe Sr., as the Great Recession was gnawing Thomas Enterprise down to just him. He fell behind on his house payments, sold his rental properties to survive and couldn’t find work that didn’t demand a college degree. One day in spring 2012, he came home and asked [wife] Sarah to help him fill out a college application, then drove to Orangeburg to ask Joe Jr. if he’d be okay with his father joining him at college.

Joe Sr. joined the Gamecocks in 2012 as a walk-on, but he tore his ACL and MCL in a car crash. He missed the 2013 season and later the 2014 as well because of a sciatic nerve problem.

Earlier this year he received an academic waiver to appear in a game

“It’s been crazy for me,” Joe Jr. said. “I never thought you’d see a 55-year-old running back. I’m just proud of him. He made his mind up to do something and stuck to it.”