Jordan Thompson says he’s gained 20 pounds since he became a West Virginia Mountaineer, but in reality, he may need to gain 20 more before anyone really notices.
When Thompson arrived in Morgantown last January he said he weighed about 145 pounds, and now, eight months later, he’s a much more beefy 164. And while he may be going through the buffet lines these days stuffing his tray like Bluto Blutarsky, he's still not quite ready to be the first guy off the bus during road games.
Last spring, teammate Stedman Bailey took to calling Thompson ‘Squirt’ – a nickname that has stuck to him the way donuts seem to stick to the rest of us.
“I didn’t come in with it,” Thompson laughed. “He just one day called me Squirt and it just stuck. I’ll just keep it. I’m OK with it – it’s just a nickname.”
Before his WVU career winds up, a few more flattering nicknames may be in store for the talented freshman wide receiver.
West Virginia was able to pry Thompson out of Houston because he couldn’t pass the eyeball test despite putting up some gaudy numbers at Texas 5A power Katy High during his senior season in 2011. Thompson caught 66 passes for 1,117 yards and 17 touchdowns to finish ninth in the city in receiving yards and fifth in TD catches.
Thompson earned second team all-city honors and was his district’s special teams player of the year, but his two best options to play college football were at Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston State. That is before the Mountaineers came calling.
“I went to an LSU camp and a Texas Tech camp and I did really well at those, but they didn’t give me any looks, I guess, because I was too small for their program,” Thompson said.
Thompson said he wasn’t too concerned when the offers weren’t rolling in during his senior year and he continued to remain positive that he was going to end up somewhere, even if it wasn’t to one of the Big 12 schools he grew up watching on television.
“I had a couple of minor offers and I was going to take them just to show my stuff,” he admitted. “But you never know where things will take you.”
Thompson said he played against guys who signed with some of the bigger schools in the state and he more than held his own against them. Sometimes the guys who look like football players and can run around cones pretty fast at summer camps are not quite as impressive when they actually get out on the football field.
“There were a couple of opponents I faced that were going to big D-I places and I was going against them and I was beating them one-on-one all day,” Thompson said. “They were getting all these offers and I didn’t have a single offer and that kind of gave me more motivation to keep going. My dad always told me to keep playing because [the offers] are going to come.”
And one eventually did – West Virginia University. “I’m thankful West Virginia came and knocked on my door,” Thompson said.
If you listen to coach Dana Holgorsen talk about Thompson, he’s glad he knocked, too.
“That guy is something,” Holgorsen said Monday evening. “He’ll play obviously as a true freshman.”
Thompson doesn’t quite have Tavon Austin’s jets [who does?], but he’s not too far off in the elusiveness department, and he gives the Mountaineers another burner to work the middle of the field.
Actually, it was Austin who Thompson began emulating after he started watching some of West Virginia’s games on television last year.
“Last year he just exploded,” said Thompson of West Virginia’s All-America candidate. “Every Mountaineer game that was on TV I watched him. He has the same body type as me and I just knew I could do something in college football after watching him.”
Thompson said he’s already learned a lot from observing and talking to Austin during practice, how he avoids any unnecessary contact by stepping out of bounds at the right time or by contorting his body in a way that he doesn’t absorb the full impact of hits.
Get what you can get and then get down to fight another day, is Tavon’s message.
“Tavon has been talking to me about not taking too many shots on the field because it’s going to take a toll on your body,” Thompson said. “I haven’t mastered it like he has, but I’m getting there.”
Just the other day, Thompson said he got whacked pretty good a couple of times during practice, but on both occasions he was able to bounce right back up and act like nothing really happened.
“One was by [inside linebacker Jared] Barber off an under route and he got a hit on me,” Thompson said. “I caught the ball and bounced right back up and then the other one was [safety] Darwin Cook. He came down on a reverse and hit me and my helmet actually popped off, but it was all good.”
When his mother Adele finds out about this she’s sure to go back to worrying just the way she did when her son first told her he wanted to play tackle football when he was nine.
“I was a baseball player and my dad was like, ‘You need to try football,’” Thompson said. “My mom was very cautious about that. She didn’t want me to play football, but then my dad had to talk to her and say ‘he’s going to be OK’ and all that stuff. After the first year she was OK with it.”
Now, 10 years and about a hundred pounds later, Thompson is still the littlest guy on the football field – and loving every minute of it.
“It’s just a mentality,” he said. “When you go out there you know you are going to be undersized and you know there are a lot of people that are stronger and bigger than you, but it’s just the mentality of [being able to play] bigger than you really are.”
Or, being alert enough to get out of the way when that big linebacker with the hairy forearms is barreling down on him, or, better yet, getting down to the ground before that free safety wearing the full-cage facemask begins winding up his widow maker for the knockout shot.
“You are already small, and being small is an advantage because you have quickness and elusiveness,” Thompson said. “Making sure they are not touching you is the key.”
It sure is.
Check out Antonik's new book The Backyard Brawl: Stories from One of the Weirdest, Wildest, Longest Running, and Most Intense Rivalries in College Football History available in bookstores this fall. A portion of the sales benefit the WVU Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. Also, be sure to "Like" the new Backyard Brawl Facebook page and tell us your personal WVU-Pitt story.
Jordan Thompson, West Virginia Mountaineers, WVU, Big 12 Conference football
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