Note: This is the first of four major FSU Athletics Awards that will be presented between now and July 15 for the 2017-18 campaign. The remaining awards will be announced over the course of this week.
Big Rapids, Mich. - Ferris State University football alum and current NFL defensive back Tavierre Thomas (Detroit/Allen), who concluded his Bulldog eligibility as a two-time All-American last fall after originally joining the squad as a walk-on, has been chosen as the recipient of Ferris State Athletics' Jimmy Swears Courage Award for the recently-completed 2017-18 campaign.
The Jimmy Swears Courage Award is presented to a deserving student or current personnel within the Bulldog Athletics program, who when confronted with a life-altering or difficult situation, has used perseverance, dedication and determination to overcome the odds while inspiring others.
After growing up in Detroit, Thomas arrived at Ferris State in the fall of 2013 and earned a spot on the FSU football squad as a walk-on through a tryout opportunity. He eventually became one of the nation's top defensive backs and earned a chance to play professional football with the National Football League's (NFL) Arizona Cardinals as a preferred free agent where he'll head to training camp this month.
"Tavierre Thomas is an outstanding choice as the Jimmy Swears Courage Award recipient," said FSU Athletics Director Perk Weisenburger. "He overcame adversity as a walk-on in our program and became a two-time All-American as one of the nation's top players who now has an opportunity in professional football.
"He has also been highly-successful in the classroom and a great example of what can be accomplished through dedication, work ethic and commitment," he added. "He should be extremely proud of his achievements and we are honored to name him as the recipient of the Jimmy Swears Courage Award."
A 2017 Cliff Harris National Small College Player of the Year finalist, Thomas was a consensus All-America choice as a senior while helping lead FSU to a second consecutive national quarterfinal appearance.
As a senior last fall, Thomas ranked among the league and national leaders with 18 total pass breakups and four interceptions while garnering the GLIAC Defensive Back of the Year honor. The two-time first team All-GLIAC selection finished right behind standout end and NFL draft choice Zach Sieler on the squad with 60 total stops and added two tackles for loss while starting all 13 games in his final season as a Bulldog.
In his final campaign, Thomas helped FSU to an 11-2 overall record. FSU's 11 wins marked the fourth consecutive year in his career in which the Bulldogs had achieved the feat, which represented the first time in school history in which FSU has done so over four-straight years. Last fall, the Bulldogs also made their fourth consecutive trip to the NCAA Division II Playoffs and reached the national quarterfinal round for the second-straight year after making a D2 National Semifinal appearance the previous season.
On the field, Thomas overcame adversity as a walk-on to be both a major contributor and starter on the Bulldogs' four-straight NCAA Playoff squads. In the classroom, he also developed into a two-time Arthur Ashe Sports Scholar, a three-time GLIAC All-Academic Team honoree and an FSU graduate after academics had prevented him from becoming a Division 1 recruit out of high school.
"This is an outstanding achievement and we're thrilled for what Tavierre Thomas has been able to achieve both on and off the field," said FSU head coach Tony Annese. "He has been an outstanding role model and leader for our team while blossoming into one of the nation's top players. We're excited to follow his professional career and thankful for all he did for Bulldog Football the past four years."
The Jimmy Swears Courage Award is named in honor of longtime FSU Athletics booster Jim Swears, who passed away Jan. 17, 2007, at the age of 64 following a lengthy bout with cancer. A local businessman and community activist, Swears was a strong supporter of Ferris State men's ice hockey, football, and basketball. He worked diligently to help develop and maintain FSU's status as a NCAA Division I men's ice hockey program. Additionally, Swears served on the board of directors for the Big Rapids Area Junior Hockey Association and was an active member of the Michigan Automobile Dealers Association. He was the 2006 recipient of the Northern Lights Lifetime Achievement Award for business and industry in the Big Rapids (Mich.) area.
Nominees for the award are an inspiration to their peers, serve as a role model to others and are a team leader while responding to adversity. Those individuals nominated for the award must be involved with the Bulldog intercollegiate athletics program and possibly include student-athletes, student managers, student coaches and/or student athletic trainers in addition to current athletics department personnel.
"We're honored to be able to present these year-end awards and extremely pleased as an athletic department to be able to honor our outstanding student-athletes and people with awards named after individuals who have played such a big part in the history and tradition of Bulldog Athletics," said Weisenburger.
Thomas becomes the 10th-ever winner of the Jimmy Swears Courage Award and the first Bulldog football player to earn the recognition. Former women's basketball guard Kylie Muntz is the only two-time winner of the prestigious honor, making this year's honor the 11th time overall in which the award has been bestowed.
The other nominees for this year's honor included a pair of members of Ferris State's NCAA Division II National Championship men's basketball squad in seniors Noah King and TyQuone Greer along with Bulldog Softball's Jackie Kirkpatrick.
Jimmy Swears Courage Award Recipients
2017-18 - Tavierre Thomas (Football)
2016-17 - Chad McDonald (Men's Ice Hockey)
2015-16 - James Chappell (Men's Basketball)
2014-15 - Simon Denis (Men's Ice Hockey)
2013-14 - Will Huntington (Men's Tennis)
2012-13 - Kylie Muntz (Women's Basketball)
2011-12 - Kylie Muntz (Women's Basketball)
2010-11 - Natalie Diorio (Women's Tennis)
2009-10 - Richard Weisenberger (Men's Golf)
2008-09 - Aaron Lewicki (Men's Ice Hockey)
2007-08 - No recipient
2006-07 - Mark Bomersback (Men's Ice Hockey)