A father's love: Lions TE Logan Thomas endured tragedy to be a stronger dad
Logan Thomas fiddled with his phone as he sat in the driver’s seat of his Cadillac Escalade, his 1-year-old son on his lap and his three older boys in back watching a movie.
Thomas, who signed with the Detroit Lions as a free agent this spring, had joined his wife, Brandie, at countless doctor’s appointments, and this one seemed no different to anyone but her.
Sixteen weeks pregnant at the time, Brandie had an eerie feeling about the visit, one she still can’t quite explain. Logan caught his first career touchdown the day before, in the Buffalo Bills’ 30-27 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and everyone was in good spirits. But something felt wrong with her body.
She told Logan and the boys to stay in the car while she went in for her checkup, and a few minutes later called Logan in a panic.
“You need to come inside,” Brandie told Logan.
“What?” Logan said reflexively.
“At that point, I didn’t know,” Thomas said. “I wasn’t even thinking. I didn’t know if it was going to be twins or it was going to be anything. But the worry, it didn’t really hit me until afterwards.”
Logan handed his youngest son to the older boys and went inside to see Brandie. When he got in the room, there was no mistaking the grief on her face.
Brooklyn Rose, the baby girl growing inside Brandie’s belly, no longer had a heartbeat, and the Thomases were about to endure 48 of the toughest hours of their lives.
After an anguishing ultrasound, they set up a hospital visit for two days later, where Brandie delivered her baby in the maternity ward just down the hall from couples celebrating the births of their newborns.
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There was paperwork to fill out for the funeral home, genetic testing to come, and Brandie needed emergency surgery for excessive bleeding.
Now 20 months removed from their tragedy, the Thomases find themselves this Father's Day overwhelmed with blessings from their growing family.
Already “Dad” to Cam, 11, Blake, 10, and Carter, 9, Logan plans to legally adopt the three boys Brandie had from a previous relationship one day soon, possibly this summer. Logan Jr., the first son Logan and Brandie had together, is 3 and doing his best to keep up with his older brothers every day. And six months ago, the couple welcomed another baby boy to the world, Devin.
“It took a long time for us to feel better about the situation,” Brandie said. “Getting pregnant again was terrifying. I have never been scared to be pregnant and I was scared my entire pregnancy with this last one. I mean, just, it was very, very scary. And then going to give birth, (Logan) and I would just share like, we won’t feel like it’s real till we’re really holding the baby.
“Now we feel like it kind of has come full circle. Our son is amazing. He’s the happiest, sweetest boy. We love him so much it’s crazy, and to think if that didn’t happen we would never have him. Now we just feel like there’s a reason everything happens cause we know we never would have met Devin, and we know he’s meant to be in our family.”
Thomas is expected to serve as the Lions’ third tight end this season, a glue guy who catches passes, contributes on special teams and should complement the offseason additions of T.J. Hockenson and Jesse James well.
But five years ago, he left Virginia Tech as a promising dual-threat quarterback prospect and went to California to train for the draft with former Lions backup Kevin O’Connell, now the offensive coordinator in Washington under coach Jay Gruden.
It was there Logan and Brandie met, with an assist from social media.
Brandie played volleyball at San Diego State, and one of her teammates married O’Connell, a quarterback at the school from 2004-07. Brandie followed O’Connell on social media, and when he posted a picture of Logan, she followed his trainee, too.
Logan followed Brandie back, and a connection was made.
The two talked virtually every day while Logan was training, and after that when he was a fourth-round pick in 2014 by the Arizona Cardinals. Brandie said she was reluctant to have her three boys around Logan for the first six months or so of their relationship just because “I didn’t want to have someone come into their life and then get ripped out of their life.”
But when Logan and the boys finally met, the bond was instant.
“From that point on he was just there all the time in their life,” Brandie said. “I think it was, after the first couple times they had been with him, one of my little ones, the youngest of the three, ran up to him when he had gotten there and just said, ‘I love you.’ And I was like, ‘Oh.’ And I did not know what to do. And I just looked at him and Logan just said it right back without a pause. And it was just like the most special thing in the world to me.”
A few weeks later, when Logan was out of town, Brandie said one of her boys asked if they could call Logan, “Dad.”
“I was like, ‘Oh, do you want to do that?’ ” she said. “And then I called him and I was like, they’re asking me this, and he’s like, ‘Of course.’ He was like, ‘That was my plan all along. I would have never wanted anything else.’ It was just so special to me.”
Thomas’ willingness to embrace fatherhood and his enthusiasm for it comes from his own upbringing.
Raised by a single mother in Lynchburg, Virginia, Thomas had only sporadic contact with his biological father growing up, but had two strong male role models in his life in his grandfather, Cliff Thomas, and uncle, Charles McCray.
Thomas and McCray helped show Logan the value of hard work and instill in him a love of sports, and the two helped raise Logan while his mother worked multiple jobs at a juvenile detention center, in real estate and as a mental health clinician.
Often, Cliff Thomas, who credits his upbringing in the orphanage where he met his wife for his own deep-rooted family values, would pick Logan up from school and spend the next several hours playing with Logan and whatever ball they could find.
They played baseball in the backyard — until Logan got too big that he started hitting balls in the lake — football in the front yard or basketball at the nearby park. One time, Logan found a croquet ball in the basement and had his grandfather pitch that to him, a game that ended quickly when he sent the ball back off Papa's shin.
“I learned how to work through him,” Logan said. “He’d be sitting on the couch and I wanted to play being the young one, obviously, and I’d go grab his shoes out the back room and put them in front of his feet and that’s how he knew I wanted to go play. And it didn’t matter what it was. Football, basketball, soccer, I just wanted to go do stuff. I could probably count on one hand the times he said no. He was just always — he was amazing.”
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Not long after their miscarriage, Logan and Brandie got matching tattoos of a rose in memory of their daughter. Brandie’s is on her left forearm, Logan’s is over his heart, and the ink for both was mixed with ashes from Brooklyn’s cremated body.
“That’s just a reminder,” Logan said. “Anytime I brush my teeth at night, see her. Brush my teeth in the morning, I see her. So it’s good.”
The pain of losing a baby never goes away, but for the Thomases it has dulled with time and the joy Devin has brought to the family.
Both Brandie and Logan said they hope that sharing their story helps others coping with similar tragedy.
“I have actually had some (women) message me since I had Devin and just to be able to tell them, you know, I finally feel better about the situation,” Brandie said. “Every day I look at my son, I know I never would be looking at him if it didn’t happen, and to let them know someday they’ll feel that feeling, too. It’s a special feeling. I think Devin will always be — just have a special spot in my heart because I know that it’s kind of like almost a miracle that he’s here.”
The couple plans to add one more miracle to their family, a girl, through adoption, one day years from now when they’re settled into one home.
For now, Logan has football to focus on and trying to secure a roster spot with the Lions. He changed positions at the behest of the team three years ago, only to have the Bills sign him off the practice squad days later, and is happy to be back in Detroit for a second go-round with the team.
“It’s going great,” Logan said. “Around a bunch of good guys, which makes coming to work so much easier, so much better. I enjoy what I’m doing, I enjoy being around the people that I’m around and learning from each other.”
With the Lions on summer hiatus after offseason workouts wrapped up last week, the Thomases plan to spend Father’s Day in Virginia, maybe on the lake, definitely with family, grateful for all they have.
“Absolutely,” Logan said. “Every day I look at my 6-month-old it’s a reminder for what happened but also for what didn’t and what I have now and how blessed I am.”
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