Former Bears tight end and receiver Earl Thomas passed away July 4 in Houston following an illness. He was 71.
Selected by the Bears in the sixth round of the 1971 draft out of the University of Houston, Thomas spent his first three seasons in Chicago. He appeared in 39 games with 28 starts, catching 47 passes for 748 yards and seven touchdowns.
After appearing in 11 contests, all as a reserve, as a rookie in 1971, Thomas started all 14 games at tight end in 1972, catching 20 passes for 365 yards and three TDs. He then switched positions, opening all 14 contests at receiver in 1973, catching 24 passes for 343 yards and 4 TDs.
Thomas was traded by the Bears to the St. Louis Cardinals Aug. 23, 1974 in exchange for center Wayne Mulligan, running back Cliff McClain and a 1975 seventh-round draft pick. Thomas played his final three NFL seasons with the Cardinals (1974-75) and Houston Oilers (1976).
He reportedly settled in Houston following his retirement from the NFL, becoming a businessman in the petroleum industry and coaching youth track and field.
Thomas was one of three brothers who played in the NFL. Jimmy Thomas was a running back with the 49ers from 1969-73 who passed away June 6, 2017 at the age of 69. And Mike Thomas was a running back with the Redskins (1975-78) and Chargers (1979-80) who passed away Aug. 23, 2019 at the age of 66.