COVINGTON, Ga. — Matthew Brown and Anthony Thomas called themselves a package deal.
Last Friday evening, in the midst of a bustling day of spring sports at Eastside High, Brown and Thomas celebrated a bond as friends and track and field teammates in such a way that brought even people from rival schools together to acknowledge it.
Thomas and Brown, both distance runners for Eastside’s track team, signed letters of intent to attend Shorter University. And it was Brown who, perhaps, had the best summation of how both Eastside athletes came to continue their athletic and academic careers together.
“This is my brother right here,” Brown said while pointing to Thomas. “When he’s down I pull him up. When I’m down he pulls me up, you know? When you get one of us, you get both of us.”
Brown’s ability to pull Thomas up From the doldrums that came with not getting as many scholarship offers as he wanted was the beginning of the pair’s journey to sign with Shorter.
“It started at our Grayson meet,” Brown said. “I told Ant that the Shorter coach is here, and we started talking to him.”
“It was Matthew’s scholarship originally,” Thomas said. “And he brought me on with him and talked to the coach about me. The Shorter coach liked me enough. He said my times are good enough and he wanted me too, and the rest is history.”
Brown was already sold on Shorter, and because he knew Thomas so well, he figured he could sell his friend on the school as well.
Thomas, despite breaking his own school record in the 1600 meter run, only got strong interest from Albany State. He attributed that to signing up late with the NCAA Clearinghouse process for athletes aspiring to perform in college.
“Because I was late, Albany State was the only other visit I went to, but they didn’t push through,” Thomas said. “Luckily, Matthew was able to come through for me.”
The two met each other on the track, and ironically had their first interaction with each other while competing.
“It happened when we were trying out for cross country,” Thomas said.
“I beat him in the 1600,” Brown interjected with a laugh. “Yeah, the only time he beat me,” Thomas responded.
It’s that kind of playful competition that typifies their relationship.
“I call it a friendly beef,” Thomas said. “It’s always like ‘good job,’ or ‘I’ll get you next time’ kind of thing. Our competition and our bond makes us better.”
Their bond also brought in a slew of Alcovy track athletes to Eastside’s media center to help the duo celebrate. Thomas’ mom is a track coach at Alcovy, and as the signing ceremony went on, student-athletes from both schools spoke in testimony of the kind of people both Brown and Thomas are.
First year track coach Brandon Nunn echoed those sentiments.
“They’re good athletes, but even better kids, and you can see that today by who’s hear,” Nunn said. “They’re definitely track athletes. Both of them are finely tuned machines. I’ve enjoyed being around them. They’re the kind of kids who are able to cut up and laugh, but know how to get serious.”
Both will compete in the Class AAAA state meet this week. Thomas will run the 800 meters and the 4x400 relay, while Brown will also compete in the 4x400. And because their time at Eastside has meant so much to both athletes, they’re hoping to finish strong in their high school finale.
“Basically, we all became a family here,” Thomas said. “It’s been such a great ride here. We have a lot of appreciation for the people who pushed us through. I’m really grateful.”
Said Brown: “Eastside has done me good. I came here as a freshman from Jamaica, and every one here, all my teammates and coaches have pushed me to be the best I can be.”