TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Ahmad Thomas was anxious when he met his biological parents face-to-face in early February.

Michelle Hooshing was scared. Twenty-three years earlier — as a 13-year-old girl — she had given up her 1-month-old son for adoption. She hadn't seen the baby she had named Calvin since that day. She hadn't known that he'd grown up to be a captain on the University of Oklahoma's football team.

Alongside Hooshing was Thomas' biological father, Michael Samuel, whom she had found a few months earlier. He had never stopped thinking about Hooshing and Thomas since being separated after the preteen pregnancy was discovered.

On Feb. 2, the three met in Wisconsin, just a few miles from Thomas' workplace with the Green Bay Packers.

"I was terrified," Hooshing told the Tulsa World . "I felt it was a mixture of emotions. I was excited. I was a bit uneasy. I was at a point where, 'OK, finally, it's time.' So I had to jump right in and deal with it.

"Once I actually got there, I panicked and tried to run. Once Ahmad hugged me, it was OK and I calmed down, and it was nothing but bliss after that."

The reunion was more than two decades in the making. It took sleuth work by Thomas, who at age 16 was informed by his loving family that he was adopted. Then in December, he was shown the adoption papers, which provided the names of his biological parents.

Thomas began digging into his biological family's information last winter. After finishing his career at OU, he spent last season working out for NFL teams. Each tryout was combined with a physical. It was during those tests that it was discovered that he was anemic.

It was important for Thomas to learn his biological family's health history. He told his adoptive mother, Marvice Thomas, the situation, and she sent him the paper with the names of his biological parents.

Thomas was adopted in early 1995, shortly after Marvice Thomas' sister and brother-in-law died on back-to-back days. The 3-month-old baby brought joy to a family that was hurting.

The adoption was private. All Marvice Thomas knew about her adopted son's birth parents were their names.

As Ahmad Thomas grew into a mature, intelligent young man, she knew it was time to let him know that he was adopted.

"I prayed, and I just knew when the time was right to let him know (when he was 16)," Marvice Thomas said. "He had been hearing talk, and when the time came, I just sat him down and explained it to him."

Thomas didn't care to know his biological parents' names at that time. He was Marvice Thomas' son. She'll always mean the world to him.

"It makes me feel good," she said. "He expressed that to me when I told him, and when I asked him how he felt, he told me, 'You are the only mom that I know.' That's not going to change, and his love for me won't change. I'm good with that."

The internet became Ahmad Thomas' best friend during his search for his biological parents. After he learned Michelle Hooshing's name, he found her on Google Plus. "You can send me an email with a little of what you would like to discuss and we could go from there," she cautiously responded.

The next email floored Hooshing, who immediately got in phone contact. Their initial conversation lasted four-plus hours. The first hour, Thomas said, was mixed with plenty of tears.

The big question — why was he given up for adoption?

It was then that Thomas learned that his parents were 12-year-old neighbors in the same apartment complex when she became pregnant. She lived in a foster home and, after a hard upbringing with mental and physical abuse, was sent away once the pregnancy was discovered.

They didn't see each other again for 23 years.

On Dec. 15, 1994, the baby was born. The foster family wanted him put up for adoption immediately, but Hooshing wanted to keep her son. The doctors told her that he had a heart murmur that wouldn't allow him to live past the age of 10. Others told her she was too young to keep her child.

For one month, she raised the baby she knew as Calvin Darnell. He slept on her chest every night. In hindsight, she felt that if she'd had more adult guidance, she could have raised him.

But she allowed her baby to be put up for adoption.

After the story was told to Thomas, the emotional phone call led to a search for Samuel.

"I wanted to find my dad because I've never had a dad," Thomas said. "It was a big thing for me to actually find him.

"One day, she (Hooshing) called and said, 'I think I found him.'"

She discovered where he lived through a website, BeenVerified.com, and then spent 20 minutes pacing the floor wondering whether she should reach out to him on Facebook. How would he respond?

Her message: "You don't know who I am. You might not remember me. I'm the girl you had a baby with 23 years ago."

His response: "Michelle?" And then, after she verified herself by providing the name of the apartment complex where they met, he sent his phone number and said to call as soon as possible.

"It was shocking," Samuel said. "The week before, my father asked me about (the baby) and what had happened. 'Did you find the baby?' Then I got a Facebook message from Michelle."

He told her he had spent years searching for Ahmad but couldn't find him.

"I was just praying that one day that maybe he'd find me. Maybe one day Michelle would find me," he said.

The three began to talk on the phone and saw each other on FaceTime through their phones. On Feb. 2, they decided it was time for a personal reunion.

"Both of us needed to see Ahmad together at the same time. We'd all have questions and be able to answer them," Hooshing said.

The hugs when they met were mixed with laughter and tears.

"Seeing him face-to-face was kind of overwhelming because he looked exactly like me," Samuel said. "It was like looking into the past. It was good. It was victorious, I guess. It felt like something that was supposed to happen."

Said Thomas' wife, Skyler: "He had the biggest smile on his face, and to see him meet them in person made everything so much more real. It made him so happy. It made him so complete."

On that day, Thomas' biological parents got to meet their first two grandchildren — Ahmad and Skyler Thomas' 18-month-old daughter, Skylynn, and 2-month-old son, Ahmad II (also known as "Deuce.")

Skyler Thomas shared with her new mother-in-law about how she and her own mother had looked for her husband's biological family earlier. They came close but thought their search ended tragically when they discovered that Hooshing's sister had died in an auto accident. They had thought she was Ahmad Thomas' mother.

Ahmad Thomas also gained three half brothers and three half sisters. Both parents have three children each.

He also is about to attend a wedding. Thomas' parents, who met when they were 12, are now engaged, with an April wedding being planned.

Thomas is thankful. Now he has two families. While celebrating the meeting of his biological parents, he's made sure everyone knows he won't forget the woman who raised him.

"I knew I was blessed growing up," Thomas said. "The reason why I knew I was blessed was because my mom always told me that when I was growing up. I'm so thankful she raised me, because without them, I wouldn't be where I am today. I wouldn't be meeting my biological parents. I think about them all the time.

"Going through this whole situation, I'm learning how to be more grateful for the small things in life. I was raised by a family that wasn't biologically mine but I couldn't tell because of how they loved me."


Information from: Tulsa World, http://www.tulsaworld.com