The road from homelessness to motivational speaker took Norris Thomas through the heartache of a homeless teen and the triumph of sports-related accomplishments.
Along the way was a side trip as he searched for his biological father – a journey that is part of the Chandler man’s new book, “In His Image: Fatherless to Fatherhood.”
Thomas – who is holding a special Father’s Day book signing at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, June 15, at the Barnes & Noble Store in Chandler Fashion Center – said he wrote the book to give a very personal reflection on “the importance of the role of a father in a child's life regardless of circumstances.”
“I wrote it from a place of pain, but I knew it would bring healing and inspiration to the world when I shared the story from the platform about the importance of making a decision and sticking to it no matter what age you are. The book inspired my platform message, "Your Why Defines Your Try."
Thomas is a motivational speaker and a Realtor.
The former head track and field coach for Hamilton High School, he also is a host of “Arizona Prep Spotlight” that airs on Fox Sports Arizona.
He was an All-American football player for the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse, for which he eventually was admitted to the school’s Wall of Fame and played two seasons in the Canadian Football League before retiring from football in 1996.
A chance meeting with a woman who had heard him speak at a school in Minnesota – where he lived before moving to Chandler in 2000 – inspired him to become a motivational speaker before individuals and organizations.
He was homeless as a teen after his family moved to Wisconsin when he was 13.
But he had a dream, he said, since he was a little boy.
“From the age of 6 I have always had the microphone in my hand and I consider it a gift to be able to run my mouth,” he said.
He speaks to companies and groups with a message built around the 1992 championship University of Wisconsin-La Crosse football team: “Pride in understanding you are part of a large organization; poise as begin great at what you do; and pursuit, or relentlessly focusing your energy on achieving success.”
With young people, he encourages them to consider “who’s on their team and the obstacles that they face in life where choice is governed by a decision.”
Thomas, the father of two teenagers and a 24-year-old daughter who is married, said his book is meant to inspire readers and call them to action.
“I wrote ‘In His Image: From Fatherless to Fatherhood’ because I wanted to do more than just tell my story about meeting my dad. I also wanted to challenge parents to stand for their children. Whether you're single parent single dad single mom or dad both parents, it's so important to be involved in your children's lives both academically – whether it's a school play, school recital, athletically, however it is,” he explained.
“Being there for your children means the world and it was pretty much the only thing that I really desired of my father and becoming a father myself.”