In previous years, NFL rookies would be struggling to keep their head above water in their first minicamps, learning the playbook and adjusting to the rigors of a new profession. But we're in the middle of a lockout which means that everything but the NFL Draft has been put on hold this offseason.
It's a stressful time for the newly drafted, particularly those taken late in the proceedings, because there's no guarantee they will even make the team should there be a 2011 NFL season. But for Bears' sixth-rounder pick JT Thomas -- at least for one night -- there were more important things on his mind.
Last Friday, Thomas accompanied 14-year-old Joslyn Levell, who has spina bifida and is often confined to a wheelchair, to her school dance.
The two met in Morgantown, West Virginia; that's where Thomas went to college, and Levell, a Bears fan, moved there two years ago.
Thomas' 7-year-old brother, Jared, has autism and rides the same bus as Levell. Knowing Levell was a Bears fan, bus driver Jake Tennant planned to introduce Jared's older brother to her. Nearly three weeks ago, J.T. was invited on the bus while kids were being dropped off at home.
What timing. As J.T. met a Bears fan in his hometown, Joslyn explained to him that she'd had a rough week because all of the boys she asked to the dance declined. Thomas melted.
"I hugged her and signed a few things and we talked for awhile and she cried a bit," Thomas told NFL.com's Steve Wyche. "I gave her a hug and told her everything would work itself out," adding: "I was nervous that by the time I reached out, she might have had a date and would have to turn me down."
Luckily, it all worked out. Thomas rented a black Chrysler for the occasion and showed up at Levell's house with a bouquet of roses and a corsage. And maybe best of all, Levell proved her classmates wrong who didn't believe her date was a former Mountaineer football player.
"The first thing one of the boys who was mean to me came up to me and said, 'I'm sorry I didn't believe you,' " Levell said. "It was soooo exciting. I'm just so excited to go to school and see what everyone has to say."
And Thomas, who should make the Bears' roster on this random act of kindness alone, was frank about his role in Levell's big night. "This was Joslyn's night. It wasn't about me."