January 13, 2024

By Fred Liggett

The first full work week of 2024 began with news of Lee’s Summit Tigers head football coach Eric Thomas decision to leave after fourteen years for the same position at his alma mater the Jefferson City Jays. The Jefferson City School District announced the hiring on Monday, Jan. 8 in a press release.

For Thomas it’s a chance to lead the football program he suited up for during his high school career. Thomas, a 1993 Jeff City graduate, while a Jay won a state title in 1990 and 1991. Thomas played for legendary coach Pete Adkins before moving on to play college football at the University of Central Missouri.

On his Facebook page Coach Thomas commented on the move, “I shared with our players that after 14 years as the Head Football Coach at Lee’s Summit High School, I will not be returning next season. Leaving Lee’s Summit has been a difficult decision, as this community has been such a critical part of our family’s journey and a supportive home for our two children. I am incredibly grateful to everyone at Lee’s Summit High School for giving me the opportunity to lead this program over the past 14 seasons and to the community for its long-standing support. I have always seen this position as a privilege and an honor, and I leave here proud of what we have built together.”

Thomas took over the fortunes of the Tigers football program in 2010 and leaves fourteen years later with a mark of 70-78. Thomas will be remembered as the high school football coach of three current NFL players. QB Drew Lock who went on to success at Mizzou and then an NFL career in Denver and Seattle. Another name Thomas will be remembered for is DE Felix Anudike-Uzomah who went on to have success in the Big 12 at Kansas State before becoming a 2023 first round draft pick of the Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs. WR Mitchell Tinsley played for Penn State before becoming a rookie this season for the Washington Commanders.

Another former player of Coach Thomas, Max Whisner, commented on Thomas and his time leading the Tigers football program “left a good mark on it for sure, dedicated fourteen years to the program.” Whisner describes Thomas as “a very determined coach, old school and gritty.” Whisner adds Thomas “always had faith in his players, got everyone involved.” On a personal level Whisner says, “Thomas was always great to my family since elementary school.” After being a LSHS Tiger Whisner spent the past two seasons as a tight end at Mizzou.

Away from the field and the bright lights on Friday nights Thomas was known for winter conditioning program for his players. Thomas also oversaw Lee’s Summit HS host a 7 on 7 program each summer that would bring numerous teams from around the KC Metro area each week to play each other. A total renovation of Bud Hertzog Stadium, home of the Lee’s Summit Tigers football team, took place over the last three years before being completed in 2023. Thomas leaves his mark at the home of Tigers and now looks forward to leaving another mark at his former football home in Jefferson City.