December 9, 1998
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Former Notre Dame football standouts David Casper and Bob Thomas are among six former student-athletes who are this year’s NCAA Silver Anniversary Award recipients.
The awards recognize former student-athletes who have distinguished themselves since completing their college athletics career 25 years ago. The award winners were selected by the NCAA Honors Committee, which is composed of athletics administrators at member institutions and distinguished citizens who are former student-athletes.
In addition to Casper and Thomas, this year’s honorees Anita DeFrantz, Connecticut College, rowing and basketball; Pat Head Summitt, Tennessee at Martin, basketball; Lynn Swann, USC, football; and Bill Walton, UCLA, basketball.
These individuals will be recognized January 10 at the honors dinner during the NCAA Convention in San Antonio.
Casper and Thomas become the sixth and seventh Notre Dame representatives to be chosen for the Silver Anniversary awards and the fourth and fifth former Irish football players. Previously honored were Dick Rosenthal (basketball) in 1979, Jim Lynch and Alan Page (both football) in 1992, Bill Hurd (track) in 1994 and Joe Theismann (football) in 1996.
Senior captain of the 1973 Fighting Irish team that was the postseason consensus national champion, Casper was the first-team All-America tight end the same year, catching 19 passes for 317 yards and four touchdowns. That same year, he was a College All-Star Game and Hula Bowl participant. A three-year letterwinner, Casper was a starting offensive tackle as a junior before moving to the tight end position in which he started in the National Football League. He also earned honors off the field, including Academic All-American (1973), election to the Omicron Delta Epsilon honor society (economics) and receiving an NCAA postgraduate scholarship and National Football Foundation scholarship.
A tight end on Sports Illustrated’s all-time dream team, the second-round draft selection of the Oakland Raiders played professional football for the Raiders, the Houston Oilers, Minnesota Vikings and Los Angeles Rams from 1974-84. A member of Oakland’s 1997 Super Bowl championship team, he was selected to play in the Pro Bowl five times.
After retiring from his playing career, Casper spent a season as an NBC color commentator before joining Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance, where he works as a district agent. An active participant in the Life Insurance Underwriters Association, he has been a member of Northwestern Mutual’s Million Dollar Round Table for the past six years.
In 1993, he was a recipient of a GTE Academic Hall of Fame honor for outstanding career achievement and contribution to the community. He also was named to the GTE Academic All-American All-Time Team in 1997.
A supporter of the Ronald McDonald House, he has served on that program’s board of directors since 1986 and founded the organization’s celebrity golf tournament in 1985. Casper also is active in ABC Organization of Edina, a local children’s organization.
The kicker of the game-winning field goal against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl that sealed the season-ending No. 1 ranking for the 1973 Notre Dame squad, Thomas set numerous school kicking records while winning three letters. He led the 1973 team in scoring with 90 points, scored 98 career extra points in 101 attempts, kicked 21 career field goals and set the school record with 62 consecutive extra points. A 1973 Academic All-American, he was a dean’s list student who graduated with a 3.600 grade-point average as a government major.
Now an appellate court justice in Illinois, Thomas kicked in the NFL for 12 years, establishing himself as the third-leading scorer in Chicago Bears history. He holds the team records for field goals and points scored by a kicker. In 1977, he kicked the game-winning field goal that put the Bears in the playoffs for the first time in 14 years.
A 1981 graduate of Loyola University (Illinois) School of Law, he was elected DuPage County Circuit Court judge in 1988 and is an acting chief judge. He was elected Justice of the Illinois Appellate Court for the Second District in 1994.
In 1996, he was inducted into the GTE/CoSIDA Academic All-America Hall of Fame and was named to the GTE Academic All-America All-Time Team the following year.
A motivational speaker for churches, corporations, community groups and schools, Thomas is president of the Restoration Ministries Advisory Boards and past president of the Wheaton Christian Grammar School board of directors. He donates to multiple civic causes, including the Chicago Boys Club, Brian Piccolo Cancer Research Fund, Multiple Sclerosis Society and Portes Cancer Prevention Center.