Concordia University defensive end Benjamin Thom dreamed of playing professional football.
However, a tragedy shattered those dreams just three months into his freshman year.
The night of Monday, Nov. 19, 2001, Thom drove back to campus with a close friend on the team, wide receiver John Randall “J.T.” Thomas, who stopped the car to reach in the backseat for something before he merged on to the highway.
As J.T. leaned back, his foot came slightly off the break pedal. The car slowly crept forward, but neither athlete noticed. They were in a rural area without streetlights.
Suddenly, a light to the left appeared and quickly grew in brightness — too quickly for them to recognize the vehicle speeding toward their car. They had drifted out on to the highway.
The last thing Thom remembered is an explosion-like sound before he awoke to another sound, helicopters. Paramedics arrived and rushed them to the hospital. They didn’t have long to surgically repair Thom’s ruptured spleen before it killed him.
After multiple surgeries, Thom survived. Until he started to recover, though, doctors kept quiet about J.T., who they were unable to save. The traumatic experience changed Thom’s life forever.
“When you hang out with death for a couple days, you see things differently,” he said. “Life is precious, but it’s also frail. Although our bodies are amazing, we’re still so fragile. It can all be gone in one second.”
Thom also suffered head trauma in the car wreck. Already with a concussion history from football, he quit the sport, giving up his dreams to play at the next level. Instead, he transferred to Full Sail University to pursue his other passion, music.
Without his life-threatening accident, Thom said he would not have become the artist and Grammy-nominated producer known to Christian hip hop as Benjah.
On Nov. 13, Benjah released his fourth studio album, Motives. During the album creation process, he showed a demo of the project to Collision Records CEO Adam Thomason, who Benjah said discipled him when they both worked for Reach Records in Memphis, Tennessee.
In his critique, Benjah said Thomason encouraged him to share his story more.
“My natural way of expressing lyrically is more poetically, playing with words, as opposed to telling my story,” Benjah said. “Usually I tell other people’s stories, what I feel or things like that. … But he encouraged me to open up more.”
Benjah did just that several times on Motives, and one of the results is his third verse on track No. 1, “Come Up” featuring Thi’sl.
Remember that night, so scary /
Saw them headlights never, hail Mary /
R.I.P. to my row dog, J.T. /
In the I.C.U., now I’m in a new season /
Crazy how it works out, God’s plan /
It’s never been stopped not, by man /
Had a big dream trying to play in the league /
I got taken out so I’d be in this scene
Benjah quoted Proverbs 19:21 when thinking about how the accident impacted him.
“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand,” he said.