Se­nior self­lessly serves on scout team

Af­ter get­ting cut in spring, Thomp­son re­joins pro­gram to guide younger play­ers

Baltimore Sun - - COLLEGE FOOTBALL - By Bill Wagner

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.”

MATTHEW COLE/BAL­TI­MORE SUN ME­DIA GROUP

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