Solomon Thomas

Co-Founder and Board Chair

Solomon Thomas has played in the NFL for six seasons as a Defensive Lineman and is Co-Founder and Board Chair of The Defensive Line.  Drafted as the # 3 overall player in the 2017 NFL draft by the San Francisco 49ers, he played 4 seasons for the Niners including Super Bowl LIV. His defensive skills have taken him to the Las Vegas Raiders and the New York Jets where he was their nominee for the 2022 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.

Off the field, Solomon has dedicated his life to sharing Ella’s story and has worked with a myriad of nonprofit organizations to raise awareness and secure funds for mental health and suicide prevention work. His courage to vulnerably share his experience through national media outlets like CNN, ESPN, The New York Times, and NFL Network have established him as a respected advocate in the field.

Most recently, Solomon participated in the announcement of the new 988 Suicide Prevention Hotline in a national campaign, served on a panel for Paramount+ Global, and continues to work with the NFL to improve mental health programming in the league.

Solomon has been an impactful keynote speaker and panel member at events for American Foundation Suicide Prevention Gala, Mental Health America, San Francisco Suicide Prevention, NFLPA Super Bowl Players Summit, Kick the Stigma,Bring Change 2 Mind, and USC Annenberg Summit. He has also been the recipient of the 2019 AFSP Lifesaver Award with his parents Martha and Chris,

Solomon has a passion for working with young football players from middle schoolers to collegiate athletes. When not on the field – Solomon is known for his love Star Wars, great food, and his two pups!

Martha Thomas

Co-Founder and Chief Education Officer

Martha Thomas exudes warmth and welcome to everyone she meets. Her 30-plus years as an educator have proven invaluable to The Defensive Line where she serves as Chief Education Officer. Her insight of the realities of the classroom provides an understanding of what teachers are faced with every day. She left teaching in 2022 to work full-time with The Defensive Line where she continues to educate through our Suicide Prevention Workshops and D-LINES training.

Martha co-founded The Defensive Line to honor her daughter, Ella, and to bring a message of hope and help to other at-risk young people. She is a respected voice in the field of mental health, a popular podcast guest, an inspiring keynote speaker, and the true north of our organization.

She has led programming partnerships in Dallas ISD, Fort Worth ISD, Clark County SD, Baylor University and Stanford University. Speaking engagements include Mental Health America/GD, Neuroscience Education Institute Congress, and United Healthcare Town Hall. She and Chris serve as faculty members of American Academy of Pediatrics, Echo Program, and have appeared on NFL Network, ESPN, and CNN. The Thomas family were honored to receive the 2019 AFSP Lifesaver award.

Martha is the roots of her family and believes and demonstrates fundamentally that connection is our greatest source of strength together. She resides in Coppell, Texas with her husband, Chris, and two rescue dogs Mickey and Rebel. She is a marathoner, gardener, and a huge football fan – especially of the New York Jets!




Chris Thomas

Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer

Chris has yet to meet a stranger. During his 30-plus years in corporate management of consumer goods and products, both domestically and internationally, Chris has literally made thousands of friends through his innate ability to connect with and care for other people.

A gifted college athlete, Chris played an integral role in coaching and developing the athletic achievements of his children, Ella and Solomon. People are immediately put at ease by his big laugh and zest for life, and by his ability to communicate a message of positivity and hope.

As a senior executive at Procter & Gamble, Frito-Lay and Alberto Culver among others, Chris brought a drive for excellence to his work, earning recognition and industry awards including Salesperson of the Year and Supplier of the Year. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, as well as Touched By Suicide (TBS) board member, AFSP Project 2025 board member, and College of Wooster Ad Hoc Alumni Trustee. Martha, Chris, and Solomon were recipients of the 2019 AFSP Lifesaver Award.

Chris often jokes that, as Solomon’s dad, he had the rare privilege of raising his own favorite NFL player, and no player has a more enthusiastic father in the stands. Chris continues to play sports, travel, and barbecue some of the world’s best ribs.

Sherri Ansley

Chief Operating Officer

Sherri Ansley brings more than 26 years of non-profit leadership experience to our young organization. Her expertise in this field has been immediately recognized, welcomed, and appreciated by the TDL staff as our organization enters the next phase. This is not the first time Sherri has been involved with a new non-profit – her ability to evaluate and determine areas of growth will only serve to increase and improve our functionality, programming, and impact.

For The Defensive Line, Sherri oversees financial management, fund development strategies, program development/oversight, and risk management all while building our team. She is focusing the passion of our founders into a strong, vibrant non-profit that will flourish for years to come.

Sherri has already demonstrated her ability to overcome obstacles and get things done. She makes tough decisions for the betterment of our organization and the people we serve. The insight she provides in building new business, cultivating, and nurturing partnerships, and growing the organization with innovation will elevate its impact in the years ahead. Her vision for TDL will light our path to honor Ella’s memory and allow us to reach others who are in need.

This Forney native has a heart for serving others, but her family is her heart as time spent with her husband Randy, 2 kids, and grandchild bring her the most joy. Deeply involved in the Dallas cultural and charitable community, Sherri enjoys sharing a love of theatre with her mom!

Sandy Williamson

Organizational Development Manager / Marketing

Sandy met the Thomas family when they first moved to Coppell, never anticipating the friendship would lead to a new career. Her marketing and event experience spans years from celebrity appearances, fashion shows and parades to schools, churches, and private parties.

She consulted with the Thomas’ when they began plans for The Defensive Line and was honored to be added to the team during their first year to work on strategic plans, marketing, and event opportunities.

Sandy lives in Coppell, manages vacation rental properties in Destin, Hilton Head and Keystone, and knows where all the Niners, Raiders, and Jets bars are in D/FW!

Aliah Henry

Digital Marketing Strategist / The Henry Group

Aliah M. Henry is the founder and CEO for The Henry Group, a consulting firm specializing in Organizational Strategy, Development and Communications for small businesses and nonprofits. Aliah is a passionate community volunteer and serves on the board of directors for Vogel Alcove and is a member of The Village Giving Circle and is a Certified Professional Coach.

She has enthusiastically joined The Defensive Line team to strategically share our suicide prevention mission for the greatest impact. The personal connection and the heart for this hard work clicked when these two organizations came together.

She resides in Grand Prairie, Texas with her husband Anthony and son Anthony Jr. and their Cocker Spaniel “Rocket”