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Some of you might remember this tremendous piece last summer from ESPN.com's Wayne Drehs. It documents the work of several NFL players, including Green Bay linebacker Aaron Kampman and Detroit defensive end Jared DeVries, to help rebuild the Iowa town of Parkersburg after an F5 tornado.
Kampman and DeVries played at Aplington-Parkersburg High School under legendary coach Ed Thomas, who led the effort to rebuild the school's stadium and much of the town.
I'm sorry to report there has been another tragedy in this story. According to this post from the Des Moines Register, Thomas was shot in the head at point-blank range in the school's weight room Wednesday morning. KWWL.com reports Thomas has died. A suspect is in custody.
Thomas has been the school's coach for 37 years and has nearly 300 career victories.
Here are some thoughts from Greg A. Bedard of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, who visited the community last summer. I don't even know what to add.
Update: DeVries walked off the field near the end of the Lions minicamp practice Wednesday morning, according to this Associated Press report.
Update II: Kampman released the following statement Wednesday afternoon:
"Coach Thomas was very special to me and many other young men from the Aplington-Parkersburg communities. His legacy for many will be associated with his tremendous success as a football coach. However, I believe his greatest legacy comes not in how many football games he won or lost but in the fact that he was a committed follower of Jesus Christ. He lived his life trying to exemplify this faith and convey those values to those under his influence. His faith in Christ pervaded everything he did and that is why in the midst of the heartache we all feel there is comfort in knowing he is with his Savior."
Update III: DeVries released this statement:
"Aside from my own father and mother, no one had a more profound impact on my life than coach Thomas. He truly was like a second father to me and to the hundreds of players from our community he coached over the years.
"Aaron [Kampman], Brad [Meester], Casey [Wiegmann] and I were so proud when he was named the NFL's High School Coach of the Year in 2005. He truly epitomized everything that is good about high school football and all the things it can teach young men.
"A part of him has been with me through my college and NFL careers and that will never change. I will never forget coach Thomas. Heaven just got a great football coach and an even better man."