Solomon Thomas is known to make big plays on the field. Now, those moments will reverberate off the field as well.
The defensive tackle announced Thursday that for every sack he records this season, he will donate $8,000 to his nonprofit, The Defensive Line Foundation.
Thomas launched the nonprofit in the 2021 offseason, in memory of his late sister Ella, to help bring awareness to mental health and end the epidemic of youth suicide. The donations will go toward supporting suicide prevention workshops for teachers and coaches to understand how to create mentally healthy environments, while also identifying risk factors and creating crisis response plans.
"It's a huge personal passion of mine and something that I really want to see stopped in the world," Thomas said. "I want to see a better mental health world for our youth, a better mental health world for everyone. To stop suicide and help anyone out there who is struggling and make sure they know they're not alone."
The five-year NFL veteran is no stranger to the struggles of mental health.
He has been candid about his own mental health journey and struggles with depression since losing his older sister to suicide in 2018. He's discussed how he felt swallowed by the pain and grief amid Ella's passing, not knowing how to ask for help. And while his story is hard to tell, Thomas knows it's important to shine a light on the not-so-perfect sides of life in the public eye.
"People look at us as professional athletes, we have our lives together; we're good. But in reality, we're human just like anyone else. We go through anxiety, we go through depression, we go through grief, awkwardness, anger. Whatever it is, just to make someone feel like they're not alone, that they see someone else who they look up going through the same struggles as them, that is extremely helpful.
"It's just comforting knowing that you don't feel like you're going crazy because you're the only one feeling like this. Many people are feeling like this. That's the huge message we're trying to teach people is that, 'Hey, you're not alone in this fight.' It's OK to not be OK. It's OK to feel your emotions, it's OK to feel your feelings. You're feeling them for a reason."
Thomas has notched 2.5 sacks through six games this season, 0.5 away from matching his career-high with the 49ers in his rookie year.
His success on the season is somewhat in part to putting mental health as a priority alongside keeping his body in playing shape. Working with two mental coaches, Thomas noted he enjoys journaling and meditation to keep him in a good headspace.
"I work my mental game just as much as my physical," he said. "Just understanding how big your mental plays in the game and how big your mental plays in life, that's truly just helped me be able to take a breath and be present and really just become a better player and become a better person."
Most importantly, though, Thomas is happy to see the foundation working to change the stigma surrounding mental health, and is now aiming to expand his resources to aid the older generation in understanding the language of mental health.
"I can relate to people," he said. "I can see my story, my sister's story, other players' stories saving lives and changing lives."