CHICAGO (CBS) — Bears linebacker J.T. Thomas has driven to Indianapolis with a teenaged friend to see Sunday’s Super Bowl.
As WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports, Thomas surprised 14-year-old Anthony Grandberry with tickets to the game Saturday at Revealing Missionary Baptist Church, in the South Side Englewood neighborhood.
The two met at a Bears holiday party. While other young fans flocked to more-established Bears players, Anthony was insistent on speaking with, and obtaining the autograph of, the outside linebacker from West Virginia, who spent his rookie season on injured reserve.
“I like all the stuff he does because he’s good,” Anthony said.
Thomas returns the compliment.
“For him to want my autograph, and to make me feel like a Pro Bowler that day, I’ve always wanted to return that feeling to Anthony,” Thomas said.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports
Anthony has epilepsy, which has not been slowed down by multiple brain surgeries. Thomas says he understands Anthony’s special needs, to a point, because he has a brother with autism. Thomas talks and exchanges text messages with Anthony, and it has made the teen’s mother, Tonya Harris, perhaps his next biggest fan.
“He’s a wonderful young man,” Harris said, as she broke down in tears. “I can’t explain how wonderful this young man is.”
Harris hugged Thomas when he walked into the church, at 5117 S. Racine Av. She presented him with a custom-made T-shirt and a photo of Anthony with Thomas.
Thomas also has arranged, through his newly-formed J.T. Thomas Foundation and the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago, for Anthony to attend the Epilepsy Foundation’s Camp Blackhawk. The weeklong stay in July, which costs roughly $1,000, allows children with epilepsy to enjoy all of the summer camp activities other children do — without the stigma some children and adults attach to those with epilepsy.
Neither Anthony nor Thomas has a favorite in Sunday’s Super Bowl battle between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots. Thomas said, if anything, he would root for the Giants because he played against them in the preseason before a back injury forced him onto IR. For Anthony it’s much simpler.
“I’ll just watch the game,” he said when asked what he would do when he and Thomas arrived at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. He said he wished the Bears were playing.
Thomas drove a van, with friends, from his home in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., making stops at seven epilepsy treatment centers en route to Chicago. At each stop, those Thomas met signed a giant banner that also was presented to Anthony.