Senior selflessly serves on scout team
After getting cut in spring, Thompson rejoins program to guide younger players
Troy Thompson was a top prospect coming out of Hillgrove High in Powder Springs, Ga. He was a standout quarterback for the Hawks, earning All-County and All-League honors after throwing for 1,864 yards and 16 touchdowns as a senior.
Thompson was selected to play in the Cobb County All-Star Game and performed well, passing for 159 yards and two touchdowns. When he was recruited by the Naval Academy, he had dreams of following in the footsteps of another Georgia native — Douglas County High graduate Ricky Dobbs.
Arriving in Annapolis along with several other incoming quarterbacks, Thompson quickly realized the path to starting and directing the triple- option offense would not be easy. After spring practice of his sophomore year, the 5-foot-11, 190- pound quarterback found himself behind classmates Tago Smith and Will Worth on the depth chart.
“Everybody comes here wanting to be that guy. You work hard, go to all the offseason workouts and bring the mentality that you are going to be that guy,” Thompson said. “At some point, you realize that it’s not going to happen. That’s when you have to mold into a different role. Some people find that role; some people don’t. I found my role.”
Thompson’s role as a senior is to serve as the scout team quarterback. He comes to practice every day and mimics the opposing quarterback.
Thompson must study film to learn the tendencies of the other team’s quarterback and attend meetings to know exactly what the coaching staff is looking for from the scout team. He puts forth considerable time and effort with no hope of playing in games.
“Who wants to come back as a senior and be the scout team quarterback? Troy has embraced it with open arms and worked really hard,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “To come out here with a smile every day and a great disposition is very impres- Saturday, noon TV: CBS Sports Network Radio: 1090 AM, 1430 AM Line: Navy by 11⁄ Navy’s Troy Thompson plays on the scout team, mimicking the opposing team’s quarterback. “It was a hard pill to swallow, but it’s something I take pride in now,” he said. sive.”
There was a small ray of light for Thompson last season. He showed enough during August camp to earn practice repetitions with the third-string offense and traveled with the team for road games. A couple of nagging injuries stalled that upward surge, and Thompson spent his junior season signaling plays from the sideline.
“Every guy has a dream of playing college football. Troy was a highly recruited kid for us. It just didn’t work out for him,” Navy quarterbacks coach Ivin Jasper said.
Thompson did not improve his stock last spring and suddenly his college career was over. He was buried on the depth chart and Navy had a large crop of incoming quarterbacks the coaching staff needed to evaluate. Thompson suffered the indignity of getting cut — although Niumatalolo asked him to remain part of the program as a student assistant.
“I was done playing and was going to accept my role as a student coach. Just be a leader and a mentor to the younger guys,” Thompson said.
However, Thompson returned from summer leave to learn that two of the freshman quarterbacks — Jonah Llanusa and Jacob Harrison — had suffered injuries. Suddenly, the Midshipmen found themselves thin at quarterback and Thompson was asked to rejoin the team.
“Coach said they needed somebody to come help out on the scout field. I had to think hard about it. Did I really want to do that? Then I realized that it’s just another role,” Thompson said. “It was a hard pill to swallow, but it’s something I take pride in now.”
Having taken an entire summer off from the normal strength-and-conditioning regimen, Thompson acknowledges that it was not easy to work into shape. “Getting back into that mentality that I’m a player again, that was probably the biggest transition I’ve had. To snap back into that mode. It’s definitely been a process,” he said.
Jasper liked the idea of a senior with vast experience providing leadership and direction to the scout team, which is mostly populated by freshmen and sophomores.
“Troy has been around and knows our culture. He knows how to give the defense the best look,” Jasper said. “He basically runs the scout offense. He understands what needs to be done and is like a team captain.”
Thompson immediately took charge of the scout team, demanding the unit storm the practice field as though it were charging out of the tunnel on gameday.
“This has been one of the best years, actually taking ownership of that unit and that preparation. You try to find a way to be a leader on the team and I wound up finding that with scout,” Thompson said.
Thompson isn’t the only senior serving on scout team. Fullback Jalen Wade, offensive lineman Jeremiah Robbins and wide receiver Julian Turner also accepted the role without complaint rather than leave the program.
It is a different story for the freshmen and sophomores, whocanusethescoutteamasa way to prove their ability. Thompson makes sure the younger players realize that playing hard and performing well against the first-team defense can make a difference.
“A lot of good guys have come through the scout team. That’s where our culture is defined. Being hard-nosed and pushing through,” he said.
“Scout team isn’t just for the scrubs. We’re there to provide leadership, to teach the culture and show the young guys the ropes of Navy football.”