By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The game of football is filled with challenges.
2020 Millington Central High School graduate Remiello Thomas will testify to that and also explain how the game of life has plenty of obstacles.
It was about a year ago, Thomas’ mother Marie had to make a tough decision to keep her son on the right path. Marie remembered her older son Kolanje Alexander’s vow to her for his younger brother Remiello.
Marie parted ways with her baby for a year to allow Remiello to live in the Washington D.C. area with his big brother. That time of responsibility and accountability sparked Thomas to return to his hometown of Millington to shine for his senior season of football.
Leading the Millington Trojans to an 8-2 record and Region 8-4A championship, Thomas earned a few offers eventually signing with the Tennessee Valley Prep Sports Academy Defenders.
“I didn’t have any doubt,” Remiello said. “I had faith in myself. I never backdown from anything. I knew I was going to go to the next level. I wanted to follow in my cousin’s footsteps.”
Remiello’s big cousin and football role model was 2008 Tennessee Class 5A Mr. Football Tausean Holmes. Holmes went on to star at Arkansas State for four years.
Holmes shared the field at Millington with his twin brother Taurean, a defensive back for the Trojans.
“When they were playing in high school, I was even playing football yet until their senior year,” Remiello recalled. “ I didn’t know anything about the college process until I go to high school. When he was at Arkansas State, that’s when I started to look up scores and all of that. I would go to camps and stuff trying to get out there. It’s a hard process.”
Marie knew her son being related to the Holmes boys set a high standard she wanted Remiello to live up to.
“He’s done well living up to the name,” she said. “I often refer to the Holmes whenever I try to help people know who we are. The familiarity has helped a lot. It helps that we are family. He loves his cousins but he has set his own standard based off of them. I firmly believe he’s pursuing college, post secondary education heavily because what they have shown him.”
Once Marie got the news Remiello reached his goal of playing football past the high school level, she wanted to share the moment with the support system that played a huge part.
“I’m suppressing tears right now,” she acknowledged. “I am excited for Remiello. Remiello has a great future ahead of him. I just want him to live life intentionally and to show up for it. I think everyone who is here today has supported him and instilled that in him. They have encouraged him and I think he’s ready for the world.
“I just want him to set goals,” Marie continued. “And set goals for the goals. Strengthen the strengths he has. Remiello has a gift of gab. He’s very swift in his thinking. I want him to use that to his advantage. Allow himself to be instructed, allow himself to be coached, allow himself to receive the good the world has. Spit out what is not good.”
The year away from home and living with his big brother taught Remiello how to make decisions for his best interest.
“We’ve talked about him living out of town with his big brother for some years,” Marie recalled. “There were some things that happened that made him make the decision when he did. And I supported him in that. I allowed him to move away from Memphis and live up in Maryland for a year. At that time Remiello became very independent. It matured him a lot.”
Alexander said when his brother turned 15, he knew it was time to be a stronger male influence in his life.
“When I was younger, I promised my mom one day when I am in a better position, I would take care of my brother,” he noted. “I saw that there was a deficit between him building a relationship with his father and me building a relationship with my father. When I was in a position to be able to take that responsibility on, I present that to my mom. She was not that OK with it, relinquishing some of that responsibility on me.”
Alexander, who is 13 years older than Remiello, has a busy schedule as an educator in the D.C. area. His main plan for his brother was to enrich his character and teach him life lessons.
“Being true to who you are as a person and as a black man,” Alexander said. “Being comfortable and having a strong self-esteem about who you are. What you do has an effect not just on you but your family and your community. I made sure he was staying on track. Yeah, he’s a teenager but I wanted him looking into the future. ‘Your decisions have a positive and negative consequence. Every decision you make has an effect on others.’”
Remiello reflected on that time with his brother and is grateful for the way he pushed him to be responsible and accountable.
“That time period was fun because I learned to be on my own,” he said. “He wasn’t always there for me. I had to take the bus sometimes to school. I had to wake up early on time because he was gone sometimes before me. I had to do stuff on my own. I was only 15 when I was up there.”
Back in Millington, Thomas knew what he had to do to impress his Head Coach Chris Michael and defensive coordinator Dodd Gengenbach.
“I just went to practice everyday and tried to be a leader,” Thomas recalled. “Get folks together and build a bond.
“We stayed together Markees (Flowers), Tommy (Clifton) and myself were always close,” he continued. “We started off playing football together. We got another person who was with us, Devonte Nelson. He is going to Memphis. We were all just so close and we wanted to win and go the next level.”
Alexander said he is grateful to have a small part in his brother reaching his dream of the next level.
“I trusted him, and being around him, I knew if I gave him that kind of responsibility, he would do the right thing,” he said. “Him coming back him was bittersweet. Although most of his friends were back in Millington. He would always tell me how many tackles or sacks he got. He would let me see it on YouTube. I’m gratefully he’s going to Tennessee Valley Prep to go on do to bigger and better things.”
Marie noted the time in the Maryland area made her son a man. But Remiello will always be her baby who is willing to take on a challenge.
“He’s still very silly,” she said. “He’s a teenager and we love him. But as far as being on his own, he had to stand up and be mature for himself. He had to be an adult for himself sort of to say. He had to go to the grocery store for himself. He had to wash his own clothes. These were things he had to do walking down the street. He didn’t have a car and nobody would drop him off. His brother said, ‘Yes you can come Remiello. But I am not going to babysit you.’
“It helped Remiello a lot because he really pressed when he was in D.C. with his academics,” Marie added. “It really set a stronger foundation for him. He understood he had to maintain a level of excellency so he could move on academically. It definitely set a tone for him. I don’t know if he would have been ready for today if he hadn’t had that experience.”
Maybe the NFL will be down the road for Remiello or a career in the military. But the All-Region 8-4A defender said he will continue to strive to make his family, community, school and his biggest cheerleader proud.
“My Momma did everything she could do for me,” he concluded. “I appreciate her. That’s my Momma. I love her. I’m going to make her proud.”