When Mr. Thomas Claiborne ’ 06 returned to the high school as a teacher and football coach in 2015, life was coming at him from multiple angles. After a incredibly successful football career spanning from his days in a Raiders uniform to four years on the Boston College offensive line before an NFL stint with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Claiborne knew that it was time to step away from the game. So in 2013, Claiborne quietly retired from the Arena Football League’s Jacksonville Sharks to focus on his family.
“My mother was sick at the time, and the joy of my life, my daughter Zaliya, had just been born,” Claiborne said. “I was distracted and decided to focus on being the best son to my mother and the best father to my daughter, instead of focusing on football.”
While Claiborne admits that it was an easy choice because, “family is always first” he also knew that his football days weren’t over yet and that he still had playing ability left in him. He did not know, however, where or when he would get another chance to play.
The ‘when’ happened to be this February and the ‘where’ happens to be in none other than his hometown of Boston.
“As the years passed since I last played, I continued to hear through the grapevine that Boston was going to get a professional Arena Football team,” Claiborne said. “After hearing that the Boston Blaze were the opportunity that I was waiting for, I figured why not return to the game I love.”
Although Claiborne is confident in his skills, the head coach of the Blaze, Rick Buffington, pleasantly surprised him when he offered him a contract immediately after Claiborne reached out about trying out for the team.
“It was a surprise when coach Buffington knew of me and my playing ability when I reached out to him,” Claiborne said. “I reached out on a whim and I was shocked and pleased to be offered a contract that same day.”
In addition to returning to the field, the team’s schedule will not interrupt Claiborne’s schedule at the high school, which will allow him to continue following both of his passions: working with the students he loves and playing the game he loves.
Claiborne is the first to admit that it was a struggle to accomplish his goal of returning to the gridiron. However, he also knows that you cannot go through life without adversity.
“Adversity is always going to hit,” said Claiborne. “Whether it is on the field or off of it, you are only going to overcome any obstacles through determination and perseverance.”
While the Blaze’s inaugural season will be played entirely on the road, the team will begin playing home games at an undisclosed arena in Boston in 2018 which will provide Claiborne with the platform to do what he loves in front of the people that he loves.
“My motivation to play again is to be at home and show my family, friends, and especially my daughter, that the key to being happy in life is doing whatever you love for as long as possible,” Claiborne said.