John Thomas was an all-state nose guard and offensive lineman for the 1954 state championship football team at Abilene High. He led the team in tackles. Abilene coach Chuck Moser once called him the best player he ever coached. He originally went to Allen Academy in Bryan, which was a prep school for Texas A&M. He decided not to attend Texas A&M, however, instead transferring to McMurry, where he was a two-time all-American lineman.