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Eastern Washington University Football

EWU notebook: Former Central Valley standout, cancer survivor Brandon Thomas featured on ESPN

EWU defensive end Brandon Thomas (92) cheers after a play during a scrimmage on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2023, at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
By Dan Thompson The Spokesman-Review

Brandon Thomas’ story of overcoming cancer and becoming a Division I college football player rose to national prominence when ESPN aired an 8-minute feature about him on Wednesday.

Thomas, a star linebacker at Central Valley High School, walked on at Eastern Washington in February. His on-field contributions have come in practice and during intrasquad scrimmages, one of which is highlighted in the story.

The short documentary features footage from the Eagles’ final preseason scrimmage in which Thomas, now a defensive end, forced a fumble.

Thomas was diagnosed with osteosarcoma – a form of bone cancer – in his lower right leg in 2020. His leg was amputated below the knee, and Thomas endured chemotherapy to eradicate the cancer.

But 15 months later, Thomas played his senior year at Central Valley with a prosthetic and made 119 tackles. Thomas redshirted last season with the Eagles.

The story is available on

Eagles TE declares for NFL draft

Blake Gobel, who played 45 games during his five seasons at Eastern Washington, declared for the NFL draft this week.

The tight end Gobel caught 47 passes for 599 yards and 11 touchdowns in his career with the Eagles.

The last time a player from Eastern Washington was drafted came in 2017, when wide receiver Cooper Kupp (69th overall) and linebacker Samson Ebukam (125th) were selected by the Los Angeles Rams.

Quartet of Eagles enters portal

First-team All-Big Sky cornerback Marlon Jones Jr. was the most prominent Eagles player to announce he was entering the transfer portal since the end of Eastern Washington’s 4-7 season.

Jones, who is a grad transfer, announced of social media offers from Houston, Vanderbilt, Jacksonville State, Washington State, Purdue, Colorado and Oregon State. In 40 games at Eastern, Jones had nine interceptions, including two that he returned for touchdowns last season.

Three offensive players also posted about their entry into the portal: wide receivers Jakobie Keeney-James and Anthony Stell Jr., and running back Justice Jackson. All have one year of eligibility remaining.

Keeney-James made 15 catches for 220 yards last season; Stell had 28 for 282. Jackson carried 76 times for 472 yards and five touchdowns, all totals that ranked second on the team behind Tuna Altahir.