Yuma High legend Frank Thomas passes away at 79
He was a father, husband, coach and teacher, but above all, he'll always be remembered as a Criminal.
Former Yuma High coach Frank Thomas passed away Sunday morning at the age of 79.
Thomas started his career at Yuma High school in as an assistant football coach for the Criminals and was a part of the 1959 team that tied South Mountain 7-7 for the state title.
When Thomas took over the head coaching duties in 1961, he showed his players what football was about on and off the field.
“He was one of the best coaches I ever had all the way through college,” Mickey Wammack said. “He showed me you could get a lot out of football as far as scholarships to colleges and everything. I had no idea that you could get a full ride.”
Wammack played offensive and defensive tackle for Thomas' 1965 team that lost to Tucson in the state championship game.
“He was just super, he'd do anything for you,” Wammack said. “At halftime if you were losing or winning, he'd always make you feel good. He'd make you want to go back out and play harder. I don't think he ever got mad at us.”
In 1976, Thomas became the school's first softball coach and led the team to a state title in 1977 with a 5-4 win over Phoenix-Carl Hayden.
During Thomas' 37-year teaching career at Yuma High he taught physical education, science and developed his own wilderness recreation and survival course.
“The best thing I could say is that I would tell people Frank Thomas is the guy I want to be when I grow up,” former Yuma High athletic trainer Jim Saladin said. “I was in my 20s, then my 30s and even in my 40s and Frank was still doing stuff with us and still back packing with us. He was a teacher, but he was a leader as a coach and as a person.”
At age 17, Thomas served in the Korean War with the Marines and was awarded two Silver Stars.
After returning from the military, Thomas went to Arizona State College, now Northern Arizona University, where he was apart of the 1958 team that played for the NAIA national championship.
Thomas is survived by his wife Patricia and two sons, Mike and Andy.