Giants Legendary 49ers Tight End Passes Away

Exploring a family's enduring impact on professional football.

by Faizan Chaudhary
Giants Legendary 49ers Tight End Passes Away
© Rob Carr/Getty Images

Legendary NFL tight end Aaron Thomas, renowned for his remarkable tenure with the San Francisco 49ers and the New York Giants, has passed away at the age of 86. The Giants confirmed his death on April 26, noting that he died at his home in Corvallis, Oregon, after a long illness.

Born into a sports-oriented family, Thomas's prowess on the field became evident during his standout college career at Oregon State. His skills caught the attention of the NFL scouts, leading the San Francisco 49ers to select him in the fourth round of the 1961 NFL Draft.

However, his journey took a pivotal turn in 1962 when he was traded to the Giants, where he would solidify his legacy as one of the game’s greats. During his time with the Giants, Thomas became a key player, participating in 116 regular-season games from 1962 to 1970.

Even decades after his retirement, his impact on the team remains significant; he ranks 17th in franchise history with 254 receptions, 14th with 4,253 yards, and is tied for sixth with 35 touchdown catches alongside teammates Homer Jones and Del Shofner.

His performance in the 1963 NFL Championship Game further highlighted his clutch playing ability, where he made two pivotal receptions. Remarkably, throughout his career, Thomas missed only seven games due to injury, underscoring his durability and resilience.

Legacy of Athleticism

Aaron Thomas was not only a phenomenal athlete but also a father who passed his love for the game to his son, Robb Thomas. Following in his father's footsteps, Robb also played football at Oregon State and went on to be drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 1989 NFL Draft.

He enjoyed a successful decade-long career as a wide receiver in the NFL, concluding his professional journey with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1998. Reflecting on his father's legacy, Robb Thomas likened Aaron to current NFL star Travis Kelce, noting their similar style of play.

"I ordered a highlight film from the NFL called ‘Aaron Thomas NFL,’ which is available on YouTube," Robb mentioned. "Watching it is incredibly enjoyable as it not only brings back memories of all the old Giants players but also showcases some of the spectacular plays my father made.

He was like the early version of Travis Kelce—exceptional at running routes and finding open spaces." Aaron Thomas leaves behind a lasting legacy, remembered not just for his records and gameplay, but as a pioneer who influenced future generations of football players. His contributions to the sport have made him a cherished figure in the history of both the Giants and the NFL at large.