Where Ya From?!
What is this question really asking us? Where were we born, where did we go to school, where does or family live, or where do we currently live?
Ed Thomas would often chant this question to his players before a game: “Where Ya From?” Our young people knew the answer. The football players would respond in unison with a robust yell– “A-P!” They all knew that they were at a special place. I have to tell you, it always felt and still feels really good to be a part of that chant. It fires me up as I write about it now. Our young people knew that an important part of what made A-P special is what they worked for and were able to accomplish as a team. In the end, it wasn’t about the wins. It was about learning what it takes to be successful. Things like commitment, hard work, teamwork, sacrifice, and prioritizing your values. Coach Thomas stressed that our football team included the entire school and community. No role was too small– it took everyone. That’s a special thing. I know many of the students that went through Coach’s programs carry that special feeling with them many years later.
Coach Thomas also often said to his players, “Never forget where you came from.” Coach was a role model for this. His two favorite places on earth were What Cheer, Iowa, and Aplington-Parkersburg, Iowa. To outsiders, these places may seem like just a few small, insignificant Iowa towns. Not to Coach Thomas. Everyone who knew Coach knew that he grew up in What Cheer, Iowa, and that it was a very special place to him. He was proud of where he grew up. He never forgot where he came from.
What Coach Thomas wanted the young people to think about, was that they should appreciate how fortunate they were to grow up in a special place. Also, that everything they did was a part of making it special. They were adding to the culture. Coach believed our school, our community, and the people in it created a special place for our young people to grow up in. He wanted them to be aware of how good they had it and that they should show appreciation. When they graduated, left town, and became successful, they were challenged to remember where they came from and the role it played in their success. If they had the opportunity, he encouraged them to give back in some way. Their success would lead to future success and what we call tradition. Making it stronger and better for future generations. That was the vision and legacy of Coach Ed Thomas. We are all challenged to reflect and carry it on.