"He said, 'Why would I want to go anywhere else? Everything I need is right here,'" said Thompson.
Thompson added that Thomas was a mentor to the entire Parkersburg community and overall, just an "outstanding man."
"It wasn't about wins or losses or football. It was about making them better young men," said Thompson. "He wanted them to be better husbands some day, better citizens."
The high school's football field is already named for Thomas, who is credited for campaigning for and succeeded at getting it rebuilt after last year's devastating tornado, which left six people dead and leveled the school.
With a career record of 292-84 in 37 seasons as a head coach, 34 of them at Aplington-Parkersburg, Thomas was one of the most well-known football coaches in Iowa, and had coached several players who later went on to play for the NFL.
In 2005, Thomas was named the NFL's High School Coach of the Year.
Casey Wiegmann of the Denver Broncos; Jared DeVries of the Detroit Lions; Brad Meester of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Aaron Kampman of the Green Bay Packers all played for Thomas at the high school where the shooting occurred.
Meester, at a press conference today, spoke about his former coach who he said had made a huge impact on his life.
"He's done so much for me, personally and professionally," said Meester. "It's not so much the X's and O's that he taught us about football, but it's the stuff that he taught us that pertains to real life, about being a man, that means so much."
DeVries walked off the Lions' practice field in Allen Park, Mich., toward the end of morning practice today visibly shaken.
In Green Bay, Wis., Kampman released a statement saying that he was mourning the death of Thomas, who was very special to him.
Kampman said in the statement that he views Thomas' greatest legacy as "the fact that he was a committed follower of Jesus Christ" who tried to exemplify his faith in the way he lived his life.
Iowa Gov. Chet Culver also issued a statement on Thomas' death.
"I couldn't be more shocked or saddened by the death of Coach Thomas. My thoughts and prayers are with Coach Thomas' family, the entire Parkersburg community, and all those who played for and loved this outstanding Iowan," said Culver.
"As a former high school football coach, I've always had great admiration and respect for Coach Thomas. The state and national coaching fraternity has suffered a devastating loss. As we mourn the passing of Coach Thomas, it is my hope we can all continue to learn from his example," said Culver.
Marilyn Ingalls, a longtime family friend, said that she was in shock over Thomas' death. "It's unbelievable," she said. "He was an inspiration to not just his boys but to a lot of people in town.
"He was a truly wonderful Christian person," added Ingalls. "He was a good husband, a good father, a good friend and he was a good man."
Perry Bernard, a soccer coach at the same high school where Thomas worked, described the mood in the neighborhood as "somber."
"It's just going to be so hard to continue on without him."
ABC News' Claudia Acosta and the Associated Press contributed to this report.