The odds of a high school football player making it to the NFL are astronomically slim.
That's why when a player from a small town makes it, the community rallies around him.
That was the case in Fitzgerald Monday night, when former Purple Hurricane Jemea Thomas returned to his hometown.
Thomas was selected in the 6th round by the New England Patriots in May's NFL Draft.
It was standing room only in the Jaycee Stadium fieldhouse Monday night as family, friends, and Hurricane supporters showed their support for the newest Patriot.
"It means a lot when you're able to come home and everyone's proud of you," Thomas says. "It's real good to come home to something like this."
Fitzgerald mayor Mark Massee declared June 30, 2014 as "Jemea Thomas Day," and presented Thomas with a plaque honoring the occasion.
Thomas' former coaches and family friends spoke to offer encouragement and remember some of his best moments in a Fitzgerald uniform.
"It's nice. It means something to them, the things that I did over the years," he says. "So it means a lot to me."
Thomas spent the last several weeks at the Patriots' voluntary offseason workouts, and will return for offseason workouts July 19.
"It's a whole lot different than college. It's the real deal," he laughs. "Basically, it's just trying to get everything down pat."
The Patriots' first preseason game will be August 7 at Washington.
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