Matthew Thomas, Miami Booker T. Washington, with family

Miami Booker T. Washington star linebacker Matthew Thomas poses with family and friends, including his mother Mariska Nyon (with scarf) and father Billy Thomas (far right, orange hoodie) after the Tornadoes won the Florida Class 4A state football championship. It was the first time Mariska had ever seen her son play live. (CHRIS HAYS / ORLANDO SENTINEL / December 9, 2012)

Miami Booker T. Washington star Matthew Thomas realized a special first on Saturday night at the Florida Citrus Bowl.

Sure, the standout linebacker and the Tornadoes won the Florida Class 4A state title with a 35-7 rout of Jacksonville Bolles, avenging a loss to Bolles in the same game a year ago.

But that was just icing on the cake. What meant far more to Thomas than any championship medal could ever mean was seeing his mother in the crowd for the first time of his football-playing life.

“Before the game I looked back and … the crowd and ... everything, I just started crying,” Thomas said. “It was like happy tears because I made it this far and I come from nothing and I’m playing for a state championship and we won and it means the world to me.”

His mom, Mariska Nyon, loved every minute of her first high school football game, especially since the Tornadoes and her boy Matthew came out victorious.

“This is the bomb. I loved it very much,” mom said, sporting a specially stitched black scarf on which her son’s name, number and school — BTW TORNADOES, MATTHEW THOMAS, SIX — was  stitched in orange letters.

“It was exciting.”

Nyon, who is a native of the Republic of Suriname, a small South American Country bordered on its north side by the Atlantic Ocean, has lived in Miami for 23 years.

She never wanted her son to play football, but it was his passion and she gave in to his desires to play when Matthew was still young. She still, however, could never work up the strength it would take her to go watch her boy play such a violent game.

Matthew, however, wasn't exactly going to just take no for an answer to what he believed to be his calling.


“My mom doesn’t even want me playing football,” Thomas said last summer during a 7-on-7 tournament at New Smyrna Beach. “She thinks I’m going to get hurt. She says I should just go to school or something, but I told her, ‘I’m going to play football.’”

He said he even signed up for a little league football team without his mom's consent when he was 10 years old. "I went and signed up by myself."

With time, however, his mother finally began to give into his passion over her fears of his being injured.

“A mom's heart, you know ...  I didn’t want to see him killing himself out there,” said Nyon, who had watched Matthew play on TV, including last year’s losing state matchup with Bolles. “He told me how much it meant to him. He likes the game. He likes to play.

"I accepted it and I support him and now he’s succesful and I’m happy that he won. I had to come because this is his last high school game.”

Billy Thomas, Matthew’s father, was happy his mother relented back when the boy was just starting to show not only a passion for the game, but also an athletic prowess that took over the football field.

“She thought maybe he’d get hurt,” said Billy Thomas of his ex-wife of seven years. “I said nah, you gotta let him go. It’s in his heart … at a young age it was for the game.

“The different positions that he played he excelled in and I was just glad to see him play. He was an exciting player and he motivated the other players around him.”

He’s grown into a special player. The kind of player who gets personal phone calls from guys like Alabama’s Nick Saban and Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher. Those are just two of the head coaches at schools vying for his services at the next level.