J.T. Thomas Takes Special Guest to Super Bowl - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

J.T. Thomas Takes Special Guest to Super Bowl

Anthony Granberry, J.T. Thomas and Tonya Harris Anthony Granberry, J.T. Thomas and Tonya Harris
Tonya Harris, J.T. Thomas and Anthony Granberry with a pair of Super Bowl XLVI tickets Tonya Harris, J.T. Thomas and Anthony Granberry with a pair of Super Bowl XLVI tickets

Anthony Granberry has never been to a football game. On Saturday night, he pulled together some of his belongings and prepared for his first chance to see one live and in person.

On Sunday, he has a seat waiting for him in Indianapolis at Super Bowl XLVI.

Granberry, 14, is a special guest of Chicago Bears linebacker J.T. Thomas. The two first met at a holiday event for local youth in the Chicago area where Thomas and other members of the Bears organization signed autographs for those in attendance.

There were swarms of fans decked out in blue and orange clamoring for a signature from Chicago's sixth-round draft pick, but it was Granberry who stood out to Thomas.

"He went up to J.T. and told him that he was his No. 1 fan, he was his biggest fan and how much he loved him and can he have his autograph," says Granberry's mother, Tonya Harris.

Granberry has epilepsy, a brain disorder in which a person has repeated seizures over time. The outpouring of love that Granberry showed touched Thomas and he knew at that moment he wanted to give something back to his newest supporter.

Thomas asked Harris if he could come visit Granberry at Christmas, and he did just that. But he was so drawn to this young man that he decided to take advantage of his position as a professional football player and come up with a way to help make Granberry's situation better.

Not only did he plan a surprise trip to Chicago to present Granberry with the hottest tickets of the year, but he would make a road trip out of it and stop by epilepsy centers along the way to raise awareness for the condition.

On those stops, he met with other epileptic children and the people who provide them with care. He educated himself about epilepsy so that he could help make a difference in fighting it.

It's all part of the J.T. Thomas Foundation, which he created in an effort to "promote leadership, education, youth sports and awareness of various childhood disabilities through fostering results-oriented relationships and inspiring individuals, businesses and organizations into action."

At each epilepsy center he visited, Thomas passed around a banner with his foundation's logo on it to be signed with well wishes for Granberry.

"We've been dealing with the surgeries, the aloneness, the unanswered questions, the unawareness and for [Thomas] to meet Anthony and find out his condition and everything that's going on with him and then do further research on this? He has really shined a light in my life and it means the world to me," says Harris.

Thomas gained recognition shortly after the Bears drafted him for taking Joslyn Levell, a Morgantown girl with spina bifida, to her junior high school prom. His younger brother, Jared, suffers from autism.

He understands and sympathizes with young people who may not have been blessed with the health and able body that he carries with him everyday.

Perhaps Granberry sensed this when he first met Thomas and boldly stated that a bigger fan did not exist. His mother can't really come up with a better reason.

"He's into cartoons and church," says Harris. "He was never a football fan or a basketball fan or sports in general until he met J.T. For some reason, he told J.T. he was his No. 1 fan. I don't know what made him tell him that. Maybe it was his smile."

It's the same smile that Granberry shares each time Thomas comes to visit, and it's surely the same smile that will be radiating from the stands when the New England Patriots and the New York Giants take the field at Lucas Oil Stadium.

When Granberry was asked which team he'd be rooting for in the Super Bowl, he said the Chicago Bears. Why would he cheer for a team other than the one his favorite athlete plays for?

On Sunday, he'll be perfectly content to sit beside Thomas as the special guest of an NFL linebacker at his first-ever football game.

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