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Giants mourn passing of former TE Aaron Thomas


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Aaron Thomas, who became one of the most prolific receiving tight ends in Giants history during a nine-year tenure with the team in the 1960s, passed away on April 26 at his home in Corvallis, Ore. after a long illness. He was 86.

Thomas played 116 regular-season games for the Giants from 1962-70. Fifty-four years after his final game, he is 17th in franchise history with 254 receptions, 14th with 4,253 yards, and tied with teammates Homer Jones and Del Shofner for sixth with 35 touchdown catches. Thomas also had two receptions in the 1963 NFL Championship Game. He missed only seven games in his career due to injury.

"I ordered a highlight film from the NFL called, 'Aaron Thomas NFL.' It's on YouTube," said Robb Thomas, Aaron's son, who played 10 years in the league as a wide receiver. "I love watching that because it's so much fun to see all the old Giants players and be able to see some of the amazing things he did. He's almost like the early version of (Kansas City Chiefs tight end) Travis Kelce. He was a tight end and flanker, but he really ran good routes and had a good feel about getting into open space."

After a standout career at Oregon State, Thomas was coached by Giants head coach Allie Sherman in the Senior Bowl. Sherman told Thomas if the Giants didn't draft him, he would find a way to trade for Thomas. In 1961, Thomas was selected in the fourth round of the NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers and the 16th round of the American Football League draft by the Dallas Texans, who moved to Kansas City and became the Chiefs in 1963. Thomas played the first two games of the 1962 season with the 49ers before Sherman made good on his promise and sent halfback Bob Gaiters to San Francisco in exchange for Thomas.

The Giants finished 12-2 that season – 11-1 with Thomas - before losing to Green Bay in the NFL Championship Game. Two years later, Thomas led the Giants with 43 receptions for 624 yards and six touchdowns and was selected to the Pro Bowl despite the team's 2-10-2 record. In 1967, he posted career-high totals of 51 catches, 877 yards, and nine touchdowns. Thomas retired following the 1970 season.

"He was very proud of and loved his years with the Giants," Robb Thomas said. "He really liked the Mara family. They were good to him. He was always a Giants fan."


Aaron Thomas was born on Nov. 7, 1937, in Dierks, Ark. In 1948, his family moved to Weed, Calif., where he played football for Weed High School. He was a member of the school's inaugural Athletic Hall of Fame class in 2008.

Tommy Prothro, his coach at Oregon State, called Thomas, "the best tight end I ever coached." But Thomas caught just 13 passes as a junior and injuries forced him to sit out most of his senior season.

After his playing career, Thomas was a stockbroker in Los Angeles before he and his father bought a restaurant/bar/bowling alley in Yreka, Calif., about 30 miles from Weed. Thomas later moved to Oregon, where he was the head football coach at Klamath Falls High School for three years in the early 1980s. He then returned to Oregon State, where he was the assistant director of the Beaver Club from 1983-89.

Thomas was inducted into the State of Oregon Hall of Fame in 1982, and the Oregon State Athletics Hall of Fame in 1990.

Thomas was predeceased by his first wife Jeanie, who died 27 years ago, and his son, Todd. He is survived by his wife, Joan, and children Troy, Robb, Lance, and Leslie.

Jeanie and Joan were close friends.

"My mom and dad's marriage was really great," Robb said. "After our mom died, a couple years later, he ended up meeting - well, he didn't meet her - one of my mom's best friends and he ended up marrying her and they've been married now for almost 20 years.

"My dad really struggled after mom died and finding Joan and another relationship and love was just really special. That doesn't happen a lot. Some people never find somebody like that. My dad was able to find two women."

Robb Thomas also played at Oregon State and was a fourth-round draft choice by the Chiefs in 1989. He played three years for Kansas City, four for Seattle and three for Tampa Bay before retiring after the 1998 season. Thomas finished with 174 career receptions for 2,229 yards and 11 touchdowns.

"It was really kind of neat when I was in Kansas City, because (Chiefs founder) Lamar Hunt had drafted my dad," Robb said. "They had two drafts back then and my dad ended up going to San Francisco. When I got drafted, Lamar Hunt reached out to my father and every time my dad and my mom would go to a game, Lamar would have them down on the field and would have my dad and mom in his suite. He just really treated our family amazing. He was such a special guy."

Robb Thomas said funeral arrangements for his family have not been finalized.


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