11th annual Orange Mardi Gras to honor Super Bowl champ Earl Thomas

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“I put on for my city.... my city put on for ME!” Seattle Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas posted on his Facebook page in response to a new sign displayed in his home city of Orange celebrating his Super Bowl XLVIII victory.

The West Orange-Stark High School graduate and University of Texas alumnus has made quite an impact on the NFL since he was drafted as the 14th overall pick by the Seahawks in 2010. Thomas’ accomplishments since entering the league have turned heads, to say the least. The former WO-S Mustang and 2013 Steve Largent Award win­ner reflected on his NFL feats on his web site.

“I’m only 24 years old. I’ve had Pro Bowl honors every year since I’ve been in the league, back to my rookie year, when I was an alternate. I’ve been All-Pro three times, and now we just won the Super Bowl. I’m starting to build a little legacy here,” Thomas said.

Perhaps even more commendable is Thomas’ dedication to his home city of Orange and the high school where the legacy began.

In addition to his participation in various NFL-oriented community service activities like Play 60 — an NFL campaign to tackle childhood obesity — Thomas carries out a series of yearly efforts to help those who are less fortunate get back on their feet. His work annually includes a Thanksgiving turkey giveaway, a winter coat drive, and a free summer football camp for children in the town where he grew up.

“He really is just a good guy,” said Ida Schossow, Greater Orange Chamber of Commerce president/ CEO. “He never forgets Orange, Texas.”

Thomas also never forgets the coaches who have helped him devel­op the skills and techniques that have allowed him contribute to the Seahawks’ claim on the ultimate NFL prize.

Thomas flew his former high school defensive backs coach Mark Foreman to New York to watch him play in Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

“It’s a real sense of pride to know that you in some way had a small part in his football experience,” Foreman said. “It’s always an honor to have had the privilege of coaching someone that has reached the opti­mum level of performance.”

Foreman said he had the opportu­nity to witness the Seahawks — and the entire city of Seattle — celebrate after the 43-8 stomping of the Den­ver Broncos and Peyton Manning.

“It was crazy. Literally awesome. It was an overwhelming experi­ence,” Foreman said.

The post-Super Bowl celebration reminded him of similar celebrations following West Orange-Stark state championship victories, he said.

“It was the exact same thing. It was just a bigger stadium and a big­ger stage,” Foreman said.

Even after the Super Bowl victory rally Feb. 5 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, the party isn’t over just yet for Thomas. He’s scheduled to be a special guest in The Greater Orange Chamber of Commerce’s annual Mardi Gras Parade, scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 22 at 5 p.m.

Schossow said the city of Orange would be announcing a proclamation to honor Thomas, and the Chamber of Commerce would be presenting him with a plaque following the parade.

“We’re very proud of Earl and everything he’s accomplished,” Schossow said, “and everything he gives back to his community. He really is a good guy and never for­gets his roots.”

“The City of Orange is very excit­ed about the opportunity to celebrate and honor hometown native and Seattle Seahawk Earl Thomas III at the upcoming Orange Mardi Gras Parade,” added Jay Trahan, director of Economic Development for the City of Orange. “Earl has represent­ed the Orange community with utmost professionalism and respect at every level from West Orange-- Stark High School, the University of Texas, and as a recent NFL champi­on.”

The post-parade celebration will also include a free concert by Loui­siana’s own and 55th Annual Gram­my Awards Nominee Wayne Toups. Toups will be performing his signa­ture genre of music dubbed Zydeca­jun — a combination of Cajun music, zydeco, R&B, and rock — at the 7:30 p.m. after-party at the Pavil­ion. The concert is sponsored by the Orange Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The parade, which will include both West Orange-Stark and Little Cypress-Mauriceville high school marching bands, will begin at the Orange Riverfront Boardwalk and Pavilion — located downtown and running behind Front Street near Lamar State College-Orange and close to the Orange County Court­house — and will travel down Front Street, 10th Street, Green Avenue, Simmons Drive before returning to the Pavilion.

The Orange Boating Club will be on hand selling food, sodas and adult beverages.

A parade map and more informa­tion is available at orangetexas­chamber.org.