The parents of a DeLand-born-and-raised football star are lobbying the city to rename in his honor the park where their son’s sporting career started.
William Thomas, father of DeLand High School grad-turned-pro-footballer Tra Thomas, asked the DeLand City Commission to consider renaming the park at the corner of East Voorhis and South Frankfort avenues after the hometown sports star.
“Tra was born and raised on South Frankfort Avenue,” he said. He played at that park — baseball, basketball — and he was one of the first kids off that street to actually go into the NFL as a No. 1 draft pick.”
Tra Thomas was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1998, and he played offensive tackle for the team from 1998 through 2008. Thomas also had short stints with the Jacksonville Jaguars and San Diego Chargers, before officially retiring from the NFL as an Eagle in 2012.
The elder Thomas pointed out that his son has given back to the community in a number of ways, including supporting youth sports programs and other causes in the community.
Tra Thomas no longer lives in DeLand, but he owns property in the area.
“He still gets his mail here,” his father said.
The park is currently officially known as Eastside Park, but it is commonly called Dunn’s Bottom Park, after a historical name for the mostly black neighborhood surrounding the park.
City Commissioner Jessica Davis voiced her support for the proposal.
“I support these efforts, because there’s a connection made. He’s engaged in the community, and this is the park that he started his career in. He’s given back to the city that we all love.”
DeLand Mayor Bob Apgar asked if Thomas could be better recognized by naming another facility after him, such as a youth football field at Sperling Sports Complex, since Eastside Park doesn’t feature a formal football field.
“I know when he signed his contract he had the party there, because I was there, but again, I don’t know if there’s some other alternative that might recognize what most people know him for,” he said.
William Thomas said the family would like to see the park that he “grew up on.”
“Whenever he comes in with his kids and stuff, they also play at that park,” he said.
City Commissioner Kevin Reid said renaming the park would be a good way to recognize a positive role model for DeLand’s youth.
“It’s not necessarily named after anyone, and we’re always looking for good role models to have our youth look up to,” Reid said. “I definitely think the park warrants that, and I’d be interested to coincide this with football season.”
The City Commission couldn’t take any action on the matter at Monday’s meeting, since it wasn’t a publicly noticed agenda item. A formal resolution to rename the park will come back before the DeLand City Commission at its Sept. 16 meeting.