This story was originally printed in Dime #70. To see it in its entirety, check out the issue on newsstands nationwide…
Everyone could use extra motivation, and while many athletes roll their eyes when someone tries to tell them how hard they should be working, it’s impossible not to get what Eric Thomas is saying. Nicknamed “the hip-hop preacher”, Thomas overcame homelessness to become one of the industry’s most relevant new educators.
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Before his YouTube videos went viral, and before he was educating future millionaires, Eric Thomas just wanted to change people’s perspectives. The educator, motivational speaker and author had started a non-profit organization as a junior in college to help drug dealers and single-parent mothers get their GEDs. Thomas also later began speaking at Michigan State University, trying to show young people how best to use their energy. He was dealing with the death of Detroit as GM, Ford and Chrysler all took major economic hits, and the resulting financial losses trickled down into everyone’s attitudes. Everyone was negative. Everyone was tired.
One of his more memorable speaking engagements climaxed when Thomas told his listeners, “When you want to succeed as bad as you wanna breathe then you will be successful.”
That gave someone an idea. A video later appeared on YouTube documenting the workouts of former East Carolina running back Giavanni Ruffin. The background audio? One of Thomas’ speeches. What happened? The video has now been viewed close to six million times.
“When he blew up,” explains Thomas, “I think that’s when I started getting calls because for some reason with him being an athlete, it made the connection that this particular video inspired athletes.”
Soon, Thomas was invited to speak with the high school All-Americans at the 2012 Jordan Brand Classic this April, as well as Harvard University and the Toronto Blue Jays minor league affiliate. Thomas is also the narrator for the recently released SB Nation series called “Core of Sports” and was recently commissioned to execute consulting initiatives for the NFL Players Association. Amazing, considering he was once an angry, homeless high school dropout who might’ve never gone to college had he not met his future wife. She told him the only way they could stay together was if he got his GED and pursued a college degree. Now, they’re married and Thomas is one of the fastest rising motivational speakers of this generation.