UT quar­ter­back pledge Thompson weathers stormy se­nior sea­son,

Fu­ture Longhorn in Soon­ers ter­ri­tory grows amid tri­als.

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - SPORTS SUNDAY - By Mike Craven mcraven@states­man.com

It wasn’t an easy year for Texas pledge Casey Thompson.

The four-star quar­ter­back trans­ferred from South­moore High School in Moore, Okla., to New­cas­tle (Okla.) High School af­ter his ju­nior sea­son, fol­low­ing his of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor, Jeff Brick­man, who took the job as head coach at New­cas­tle. But the Rac­ers fin­ished 3-7, in­clud­ing a sea­son-end­ing win over Cache at home.

“I think this year was a grow­ing year for me. I had more re­spon­si­bil­ity than I’m used to, and I grew as a player and a man,” Thompson said. “I feel like I was put on this team for a rea­son, and I hope I helped other peo­ple here as much as they helped me.”

Brick­man said Thompson will leave high school as Ok­la­homa’s leader in pass­ing yards. The quar­ter­back ac­counted for more than 50 touch­downs this sea­son for the sec­ond time in his ca­reer.

It’s hard to fault Thompson for be­liev­ing he’s ca­pa­ble of earn­ing the start­ing job at Texas as a fresh­man.

“Texas is a per­fect fit. Fit doesn’t al­ways just mean foot­ball,” he said. “I look at the city and the coach­ing staff and how I feel around the team. I can be my­self and be com­fort­able in my en­vi­ron­ment. I can com­pete day one for the start­ing job.”

Thompson, a 6-foot-1, 184-pounder, is the No. 12 dual-threat quar­ter­back and the No. 259 over­all prospect in the coun­try in the 2018 class, ac­cord­ing to the 247Sports com­pos­ite rank­ings.

He rushed for more than 1,000 yards as a sopho­more and can still beat de­fenses with his legs in a pass-first of­fense. That’s a trait UT coach Tom Herman and of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Tim Beck like.

If the quar­ter­back room has Shane Buechele, Sam Eh­linger, pro-style pledge Cameron Ris­ing and Casey Thompson for spring prac­tice, the best rusher in the group un­doubt­edly will be Thompson.

“I knew Casey was tal­ented and could play early in his ca­reer, so we started him as a sopho­more at South­moore, and he be­came the first quar­ter­back in Ok­la­homa his­tory with over 2,500 yards pass­ing and more than 1,000 yards rush­ing in the same sea­son,” Brick­man said. “He’s han­dled the change in schools and sys­tems well be­cause he’s in­cred­i­bly smart. He’s lead­ing the state in pass­ing.”

Thompson knew heat would come when he com­mit­ted to Texas in April. New­cas­tle is just out­side of Nor­man, Okla. He’s sur­rounded by Soon­ers. His dad, Charles, was a Sooner, as was his older brother, Ken­dal. He bucked tra­di­tion, and that fu­els anger.

“I know it takes a strong per­son to com­mit to a ri­val school. I’m in the heart of Sooner land, and I have to stay fo­cused on what is best for me, my fam­ily and the mis­sion ahead,” Thompson said. “Liv­ing here in Ok­la­homa, it has tested me. There are a lot of temp­ta­tions and peo­ple ready to steer me off track.”

Thompson said his fam­ily and faith keep him grounded. His fa­ther, who is fa­mil­iar with the trap­pings of foot­ball at­ten­tion at a young age, thinks Casey is han­dling it all prop­erly.

“It’s an up-and-down cy­cle be­cause so­cial me­dia is a mon­ster,” Charles Thompson said. “It’s tough on re­cruits. He’s han­dled it about as well as I could hope for a young per­son.

“He knows when to be ac­tive on so­cial me­dia, and I en­joy that. He went silent at the start of foot­ball and re­ally fo­cused on what was im­por­tant.”

His coach has no­ticed op­po­nents, class­mates and even of­fi­cials giv­ing Thompson a hard time.

“It is sad that it goes on just be­cause Casey is go­ing to Texas. Luck­ily, he has a thick skin,” Brick­man said. “We’ve had op­po­nents throw the horns down at him af­ter plays and stuff like that. The of­fi­cials even haven’t com­pletely treated him fairly. And that doesn’t even cover so­cial me­dia and what he had to deal with there.”

Even Thompson’s fa­ther has a few stip­u­la­tions once his son ar­rives in Austin.

“I told coach Herman he could get me in white, but I’m not wear­ing any burnt or­ange un­til at least my son is the start­ing quar­ter­back,” he joked. “We’ll talk about it then.”

Thompson didn’t start play­ing quar­ter­back in el­e­men­tary school even though his dad and older brother ex­celled at the po­si­tion. He wanted to hit, and that com­pet­i­tive drive is an­other piece of his game that sticks out to coaches.

“He was 5 or 6 years old and would come to games and never take his hel­met off,” his fa­ther said. “He started at run­ning back and line­backer. He loved to com­pete. I knew he had some­thing spe­cial be­cause of his at­ti­tude.

“I didn’t know quar­ter­back-wise un­til sixth grade. He took off from there be­cause he wanted to soak up ev­ery­thing.”

MIKE CRAVEN / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

New­cas­tle High quar­ter­back Casey Thompson ac­counted for more than 50 touch­downs as a se­nior even though his team went 3-7.

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