PARKERSBURG – Casey Wiegmann is going on nearly twenty years since his senior year at Aplington-Parkersburg High School. Now about to start his fifteenth year in the National Football League, Wiegmann looked back on one lesson from his high school coach, Ed Thomas, at a critical time.
"I was into my senior year and I was working at this lumberyard," Wiegmann, former Aplington-Parkersburg graduate and now back as center with the Kansas City Chiefs. "I hated it. Halfway through the summer, I went in and told Coach I was going to quit. He looked at me and said, 'if you quit on this one thing in life, you'll quit on a lot of other things.'"
Wiegmann joined dozens of other former players, current and former assistant coaches and family members for the First Annual Ed Thomas Family Foundation Golf Classic at Legend Trail Golf Club in Parkersburg.
Thomas was an unofficial face of the Aplington-Parkersburg community after a deadly EF-5 tornado swept through on May 25, 2008. With so many homes and school facilities destroyed, Thomas helped rally the community in the following months.
His own family would need that same support after a former player shot and killed Thomas on June 24, 2009 in the school's weight room.
Ed Thomas' son Aaron said Saturday's golf outing will also serve as gratitude for the nearby communities that stood by Parkersburg during the difficult two years.
"Everyone went out of their way and still reached out to Parkersburg," said Thomas. "Parkersburg could not have been rebuilt without other schools that came. Hopefully, we can give some of that back. Get the message of what was important to my dad and to those other people."
The foundation stresses a theme of "Faith, Family and Football". Thomas said some of the immediate goals are to offer coaching clinics in the area and provide bibles for local church camps.
As Ben Jacobson, UNI men's basketball coach, comes off his most successful season with the Panthers, he said he wanted to participate in the event, in part because of how coaches can inspire young athletes.
"As they're just getting all started, you can have a real impact to help kids on what can be real positive for them," said Jacobson as he stepped off the 9th hole.
Former assistant coaches also came from miles away to celebrate the positive prints that Ed Thomas left on their life.
"I want to continue to support what Coach Thomas believed in," said Greg Fisher, principal at Gilbert High School and former assistant under Thomas. "How you treat kids and develop them to be good role models in the community."