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Thomas University announces new football program centered around veterans

Video from WALB
Published: Jan. 26, 2022 at 11:50 AM EST
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THOMASVILLE, Ga. (WALB) - Thomas University (TU) has established the nation’s first football program designed specifically to assist veterans in their transition from the military to civilian life.

“Being able to serve in the military, get your college paid for, and be part of a football team is going to meet all ends for their dreams” said Georgia Army National Guard Recruiter SFC Ricardo Junco.

The program will serve veterans and those currently serving in the Reserves and National Guard, the university said Thomas University vice president of military & corporate relations, Stephen Ferguson.

Those in the program will also be students on TU’s campus in Thomasville, earning undergraduate degrees and members of the newly formed Night Hawks football team.

“Being able to serve in the military, get your college paid for, and be part of a football team is going to meet all ends for their dreams” said Stephen Ferguson, president for military and corporate relations.

Georgia Army National Guard recruiters SSG Adam Haggerty and SFC Ricardo Junco.
Georgia Army National Guard recruiters SSG Adam Haggerty and SFC Ricardo Junco.(WALB)

“We see it as a win-win situation for everybody,” said Ferguson. “We know that service members learn how to operate as a team. We’re going to use that training and apply it to football as a team sport. This is more than just football. This is about preparing veterans for the next phase in their lives and using football as the vehicle to do that. Meanwhile, these veterans will set an example for our other students about the importance of dedication and team work.”

Along with the program, TU’s counseling program will provide both mental health and career counseling services.

“The best programs recognize that the transition from military service to civilian life include multiple social, physical, psychological and economic challenges,” said Dr. Pauline Patrick, chair of the social and behavioral sciences division. “It is necessary to focus on and provide services for the ‘whole’ person. TU’s Veteran Transition Program will provide counseling, tutoring, structure, mentoring, education and other support services to assist these veterans.”

This idea has been been in works for the past 2-3 years.

Stephen Ferguson, president for military and corporate relations.
Stephen Ferguson, president for military and corporate relations.(WALB)

Ferguson talked about the impact this will have on the school financially.

“There will be an increase in enrollment. Anytime there’s additional students, there’s a positive revenue gain there. But most importantly we want to offer athletics as a part of transition for military service members” said Ferguson.

Orlanda Mitjans, Jr. was named the inaugural head coach.

“We are thrilled to have Orlando Mitjans, Jr. as our inaugural head coach for this exciting program.” Rick Pearce, athletic director, said. “Mitjans brings over 20 years of coaching experience, including positions at The Citadel and West Point. Additionally, he completed NFL internships with the Kansas City Chiefs, St. Louis Rams and New York Jets.”

“I am truly honored and very excited to be chosen as the head coach for this unique program focused on serving our military community,” Mitjans said.

Part of the NAIA Division I Sun Conference. TU will begin its football season in fall 2023.

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