Former Bears receiver/tight end Earl Thomas dies at 71


Former Bears tight end and receiver Earl Thomas died July 4 in Houston following an illness, the team announced Wednesday. Thomas was 71.

The Bears selected Thomas in the sixth round of the 1971 draft out of the University of Houston. He spent his first three seasons in Chicago.

Thomas appeared in 39 games with 28 starts with the Bears, catching 47 passes for 748 yards and seven touchdowns. He started as a tight end and switched to receiver in 1973.

The Bears traded Thomas to the St. Louis Cardinals on Aug. 23, 1974, in exchange for center Wayne Mulligan, running back Cliff McClain and a 1975 seventh-round draft pick. Thomas played two seasons with the Cardinals (1974-75) and one with the Houston Oilers (1976).

He settled in Houston following his retirement from the NFL, becoming a businessman in the petroleum industry and coaching youth track and field.

Thomas was one of three brothers who played in the NFL. Jimmy Thomas was a running back with the 49ers from 1969-73. He died June 6, 2017, at the age of 69. Mike Thomas was a running back with Washington (1975-78) and Chargers (1979-80). He died Aug. 23, 2019, at the age of 66.