Thurman Thomas Now Running Own Energy Company
Former Buffalo Bills running back Thurman Thomas accomplished almost everything a pro football player can on the field, including five Pro Bowls, four Super Bowl appearances, an NFL MVP award and induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
And yet, the first thing that comes to mind for many sports fans when they think of Thomas is a much more dubious honor: Losing his helmet before 1992’s Super Bowl XXVI vs. the Washington Redskins.
“I probably need to have a nice dinner with Bill Buckner,” Thomas deadpanned from his Buffalo office recently.
Just how much attention has been paid to Thomas’ mistake over the years? ESPN once ranked it the 33rd best moment in Super Bowl history, four spots ahead of Joe Namath’s guarantee prior to Super Bowl III. Teammate Bruce Smith even brought it up at the running back’s Hall of Fame induction in 2007, as Smith joked that he hid the helmet.
So just how did it happen?
Thomas had placed his helmet on the 34-yard line (the same number as his jersey) before kickoff as a pre-game ritual since his senior year in college. But when he went to pick it up, the helmet was gone. To this day, the incident is still a mystery to him.
“To be honest with you, I don’t even know the truth about it,” Thomas said.
For the record, it has been reported that the helmet was moved for a stage to accommodate Harry Connick Jr. performing the “Star Spangled Banner.” The lid was eventually found by a trainer and returned to Thomas, but the mishap caused him to miss the first two plays of the game.
Like most infamous sports moments, it’s been exaggerated over the years, only magnified by the fact Thomas rushed for just 13 yards that day. Judging by the gaffe’s infamy, you would think Thomas cost the Bills their second Super Bowl appearance instead of missing just two downs.
Thomas said nearly two decades later he doesn’t even try setting the record straight.
“It’s just pointless at this point in time,” Thomas said. “If people think that because I missed two plays, that cost us the Super Bowl, then so be it, you know?”
As hard as it may sound, Thomas also insists it doesn’t bother him to talk about it despite the endless questions and jokes.
“I laugh it off,” Thomas said. “It’s something that just happened. I can’t change it. I can’t do anything about it. I know when the Super Bowl rolls around, the media, the NFL Network or ESPN or whoever is going to bring it up. It’s part of my life now.”
While he says he has a good sense of humor about it, Thomas also likes to get the last laugh.
Said Thomas: “I tell people when I’m out or whenever someone asks me about the helmet issue, I say, ‘I found it. And you can find it, too. Go to the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. It’s there.’ ”
You can find Thomas himself these days about five hours northeast of his Hall of Fame bust. He moved back to Buffalo over four years ago from Orlando, FL. A husband and father of four, Thomas has his own TV show about the Bills while running Thurman Thomas Sports Training and the Thurman Thomas Global Energy Group.
That’s right, Thomas now has his own energy company. And yes, Thomas is also used to people making jokes about “Thurmal” energy in honor of his playing nickname.
The group is partnered with three energy companies to help businesses save money by getting them the best deals from energy suppliers and engaging them in demand response programs. Translation: when the state of New York is in danger of a blackout due to high-energy demands, it writes checks for Thomas’ clients who reduce their energy usage during crucial times.
It’s abundantly clear that Thomas has gone all-in on this venture he started last year, whether it’s trying to get other athletes involved, hosting free seminars in cities to demonstrate how his company works in an attempt to expand business and even requesting an interview about the company on his own.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt in business meetings that Thomas is one of western New York’s most beloved athletes of all time and an NFL Hall of Famer. But Thomas makes it clear he’s not there just be a marketing ploy and ham it up with executives, saying he’s got his game-face on when the time comes.
“I think being a former athlete, you’re always gonna have that conversation with the CEO, the CFO or the president of the company about sports,” Thomas said. “… But when it comes down to it, we’re there to talk business.”
For those in the Buffalo area, Thomas isn’t just a legend – he’s also a link to the glory years of the Bills franchise.
Want an idea of his impact?
In his 12 seasons with the team from 1988-99, Buffalo had 10 winning seasons, an equal number of playoff appearances and four Super Bowl trips. In the 17 seasons Thomas has not been on the Bills’ roster since 1982, the franchise has one winning season and zero playoff appearances.
The Bills became a national punch line in the process (“What is Buffalo’s area code? Answer: 0-4-4; oh for four”), Thomas says he is now often reminded about how remarkable it was to be the only team ever to reach four straight Super Sundays.
“Not a lot of guys can say that they went to a Super Bowl,” Thomas. “I talk to Warren Moon all the time and he always (goes), ‘Man, I wish I could have gone to one Super Bowl.’ Barry Sanders, the same way.
“… What do they say in ‘Bad Boys?’ ‘We (ride) together, we die together, bad boys for life.’ That’s us. We’re proud of what we accomplished and hopefully we’ll be around when the Bills win their first Super Bowl.”
Of course, Bills fans would probably trade anything to be losing Super Bowls instead of finishing at the bottom of the AFC East standings in each of the last three seasons while speculation swirls that the team will ultimately move to Toronto.
Thomas said he’s confident that former teammate Jim Kelly – who’s attempting to become a part-owner of the team after 92-year-old owner Ralph Wilson passes away – will keep the franchise in Buffalo. Thomas also remains optimistic about the product on the field, serving as a mentor to young players like running back C.J. Spiller and wide receiver Stevie Johnson.
Thomas’ positive outlook was rewarded last Sunday, as the Bills were the surprise of the league. They crushed defending AFC West champion Kansas City on the road by a score of 41-7, the Chiefs’ worst home loss in 35 years.
And if only for one week, Buffalo looked like the Bills of old.