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Friday, November 13, 2009

Tight end follows footsteps of famous Cougar father

Five years ago, when Cougar football senior tight end Tony Thompson arrived on campus, he was a walk-on freshman looking to get the opportunity his dad, Jack Thompson, took historic advantage of 30 years ago. That dream was to play in front of thousands of fans at Martin Stadium.

Tony said his father’s advice certainly helped him out when he first arrived to Pullman, and it got him through the early parts of his college career.

“When I was a freshman, and I was getting frustrated for not playing because of redshirting,” Tony said. “He kept preaching it’s a marathon and not a race, and kind of sticking to it and not being caught up on what immediately happens – but looking more long term and towards the future and working hard.”

Jack Thompson, AKA The Throwin’ Samoan, was one of the most prolific quarterback in WSU history, holding numerous Cougar passing records. After his stellar career in Pullman, Jack was selected in the 1979 NFL Draft with the third overall pick by the Cincinnati Bengals. He is only one of two Cougars to have their football jerseys retired.

As is the case in all sports, once a jersey is retired, the number of that player is never to be worn again. This season though, Tony was granted permission by Jack to change his number and wear the prestigious No. 14, something that made both father and son happy.

“It was real cool. I did it my senior year at Ballard High School, and that was a fun thing as a tribute to him,” Tony said. “I thought it would be more special to do it here, and he says its kind of weird to see ‘Thompson 14’ on the field, but he also said it’s a cool experience. So I’m just happy to put a little smile on his face.”

When it came to playing football at WSU, Tony said that it was never really about following in his father’s footsteps, and Jack has consistently reminded him of that.

“It was actually pretty much in myself,” Thompson said. “He’s constantly preached that it’s not about him, and I knew that if I competed to the best of my ability that, in turn, it would help my teammates out. And it just so happened that I kept doing it and got a scholarship, so I was pretty proud of that.”

Tony received his scholarship in January 2007.

Throughout his time at WSU, Thompson has had his ups and downs with the team. He has had to overcome several concussions, and the team has put forth a combined 14-32 record heading into Saturday’s game against UCLA.

However, Thompson said living in Pullman over the past five years has taught him a lot, and he truly could not be any prouder to be a Cougar.

“I know we haven’t had the greatest successes while I’ve been here, but I think that’s when you learn the most, and it hasn’t weakened my pride as a Coug. It’s only strengthened it,” Thompson said. “I’m always proud to wear the crimson and gray.”

Thompson’s status for Saturday’s game against UCLA remains in question after he suffered a concussion earlier last week.

Possible starting quarterback, redshirt sophomore Marshall Lobbestael said it’s difficult when his big tight end is not on the field with him.

“Tony’s one of my closest friends, and it’s hard to not be on the field playing with him at the same time,” Lobbestael said. “He’s a playmaker, and he’s got great hands.”

Thompson showcased those great hands with his two acrobatic catches against the Stanford Cardinal in week one.

This Dad’s Weekend will be the last Tony and Jack will be sharing together at WSU. Tony said his father has been his Superman, and he is grateful for all the advice Jack has provided him both on and off the gridiron.

“Having my hero as a father has been a blessing,” he said. “Thanks for everything, Pop, and I love you.”

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