As Michael Thomas was graduating from Stanford, a former provost of the university made a bold prediction about his future.
No, Condoleezza Rice did not say Thomas would someday be special teams captain of the Miami Dolphins.
“She said I would get into politics one day,” Thomas recalled of Rice, who had served as Secretary of State under President George W. Bush.
Far-fetched statement? That’s what Thomas figured, since he hadn’t taken a single political science class at Stanford.
“No way,” he thought.
Thomas is in Washington this week, beginning a three-week stint on Capitol Hill working in the office of Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) as one of 41 players in the NFLPA’s five-year-old Externship Program.
Thomas is only 28, was just named Pro Football Focus’ special teams player of the year and could score a multiyear NFL contract as a free agent. So no, he’s not about to give up football anytime soon.
But an eventual career in politics?
“It’s definitely a thought,” Thomas texted to The Post as a House of Representatives Budget Committee meeting was about to commence.
The Dolphins have long recognized Thomas’ leadership qualities. It’s not every day a guy goes from undrafted free agent and practice squad player on the 49ers to Dolphins captain. Package that with his activism in the community and it shouldn’t be surprising that public office could be in his future.
“With my my recent involvement with player activism fighting to end systemic oppression, I have naturally been gravitating to more political work in my off time because I believe it’s important to make those connections if we want to make real change,” Thomas wrote.
Effecting change often is uncomfortable. Thomas has taken his share of criticism for following the lead of his former 49ers teammate, Colin Kaepernick, and kneeling during the national anthem as a statement against social injustice. Far less controversial is his tireless community work, often accomplished during the players’ lone day off during the season, Tuesdays, work that has earned him both the Dolphins’ community service award and the President’s Volunteer Service Award, which also required a visit to Capitol Hill.
Thomas credits Rice, an unabashed Stanford supporter, with planting a political seed even though he majored in sociology. His connection to Lee is a natural because he’s from Houston. Lee is serving her 11th term in the House of Representatives and sits on three Congressional committees: Judiciary, Homeland Security and Budget.
Thomas didn’t have this opportunity handed to him. The NFLPA received 110 applications from players before whittling down the candidates and placing them within 20 organizations. Thomas is the only Dolphin in the program but not the only player in the political spectrum. The Chargers’ Cole Toner is working for Sen. Todd Young and the Chiefs’ Bryan Witzmann is in the office of Rep. Robin Kelly.
Dana Hammonds Shuler, senior director of the NFLPA’s player affairs department, said the program “allows our members to gain hands-on experience in hopes that they discover post-football career interests.”
Thomas has long been positioning himself for whenever football no longer is an option. Two years ago, he received his MBA from the University of Miami, at the time saying he was considering a career in sports administration.
Thomas would not be the first Dolphin to enter politics. In fact, he wouldn’t even be the first Dolphins safety to do so, since former All-Pro Dick Anderson served as a state senator starting in 1978.
“I am going to take this opportunity to learn as much as I can while representing those who may feel voiceless in our communities,” Thomas told MiamiDolphins.com.
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