By Milo Haskour –
Up until he was 12, Eric Thomas was the star of the football team. But when he found out that his dad wasn’t his biological father, he began disrespecting his teachers and parents, dropped out of football, and withdrew into himself because “I thought my mom had me by accident.”
How then did Eric rise from homelessness to become a millionaire motivational speaker?
“When you’re homeless and eating out of trash cans and stealing from grocery stores just to eat, it was a wake up call,” Eric says on YouTube. “It was like, yo E, look what you got yourself into. You dogging yo’ mom out, but yo’ mom got a job, yo’ mom has a place to stay. Yo E, at some point you have to stop playing the blame game and take personal responsibility.”
Sleeping in abandoned buildings, Eric finally resolved to get up from the canvas. “Man, God, I need help,” he prayed. He calls it a “soft” prayer because he didn’t yet know God. “I need you to help me to get out of this predicament.”
Eric Thomas – who calls himself ET or just E – was born on the south side of Chicago to a 17-year-old mom who refused an abortion and refused welfare.
She married a good man who became Eric’s father, but when distant relatives and neighbors gossiped to Eric, then 12, he asked his mom point blank if his dad was his dad. The truth devastated him.
“My life took a different course after receiving the news,” he says. “I just went downhill from that point. I withdrew. I went internal. I started hanging out with the rough crowd. My teachers couldn’t tell me anything. It was a downward spiral.”
Always a class clown, his rebellion intensified. At home, he no longer listened to Mom or Dad. It got to the point where he was walking out on their lectures one night and Dad gave him the ultimatum. “If you walk out that door, you’re not coming back,” his father warned him sternly.
And that’s how Eric, then 16, found himself homeless.
Not long afterward, he got kicked out of school. His mother got the notice of the final meeting with the principal, whom she begged to reconsider. Eric left stunned. He had never seen his mother, a proud and hardworking woman, beg before, and it unnerved him.
Her pleas ignored by the principal, Mom walked out through the school hallway next to her silent son.
“It was like Denzel in Glory. I saw a tear drop down off her face,” Eric remembers. Then Mom spoke.
“They told me to have an abortion,” she broke the news to him plaintively. “And is this how you repay me?”
While she made mistakes in the past, she wanted the best for her son and had sent him to summer camps. But Eric never really wanted to study at school. All he wanted was to play football.
“I wouldn’t say I was in love with school,” he says. “I went to school and just clowned and was rebellious.”
He wanted to play football, that is, until he didn’t want to do anything because he felt his life was an accident and his family life was a fraud. Eric bottomed out.
Fortunately, Eric had his mind and analyzed his situation. Also, he met a preacher who invited him to church and began to speak into his life. The preacher encouraged Eric to get his GED and go back to school.
“He really just spoke life into me at a time when I was lost,” Eric says on Empower magazine. “He told me I had an untapped gift that if tapped into, would save lives!”
Eric attended church and listened to the word and built his life back up slowly. He accepted Jesus into his heart and committed his way to the Lord. He attended Oakswood University in Huntsville, Alabama, and, after 12 years, got his first degree.
At college, Eric hooked up with a student group of African American professionals who were lawyers and doctors and aspiring students. The group – called Willing, Succeeding and Black – delivered inspirational speeches and rallied the community to success and achievement.
“To be with positive African American men… This was the first time I wasn’t in the community where they were talking about girls, drugs, fighting and gangs. These guys were talking about international affairs,” Eric tells.
Eric liked it so much that he helped set up and organize their assemblies. One day the speaker didn’t show and his fellow organizers turned to him: Deliver the scheduled speech.
There were 300-400 students in the room. Eric felt completely inadequate but stepped up anyway. His speech was electrifying.
Eric surprised himself: “My first speech was unbelievable. People loved it. People came up to me and said, ‘Yo Eric, you really said something that pricked my heart.’ When they gave me a chance to make a speech and it went well, i was like, ‘Wait till I get a second shot.’”
His motivational speaking was born.
Eric married De-De Mosley while working and going through college. In 2003, he was hired by Michigan State University as an academic advisor to disadvantaged students. He was given the chance to complete a master’s degree as well.
He completed a PhD in education administration in 2005 and launched A Place of Change (APOC) Ministries in Lansing, Michigan. He has penned a slew of top-selling books including The Secret of Success and You Owe You.
He is called to speak before professional sports teams and inner-city kids. He’s been featured on Fox News and other media outlets. His YouTube videos are immensely popular and rap artists, such as Meek Mills, feature his soundbites in their songs.
The great thing about Eric Thomas is that while his professional speaker’s fee has skyrocketed, his ministry has not been neglected. God is first for the man. He calls himself the Hip Hop Preacher.
Gone are the days of eating out of trashcans. He’s valued at $5 million.
“I used my pain to push me to greatness,” he says.
If you want to know more about a personal relationship with God, go here
About the writer of this article: Milo Haskour studies at Lighthouse Christian Academy near West Los Angeles.