'Throwback' Lineman Off To Strong Start For Tigers

Auburn, Ala.--Redshirt freshman noseguard <!--Default NodeId For Josh Thompson is 1427142,2004--><A HREF=[PlayerNode:1427142]>Josh Thompson</A> is making a name for himself in the trenches with his old-school, hard-nosed style after a strong showing in his first two collegiate games. <p>

In the fourth quarter of Auburn's 43-14 win over Mississippi State on Saturday, Thompson took a blow to the nose that required four stitches after the game. "It's pretty sore right now, still a little bit sore," Thompson says. "I've got to get it healed up. It happened in the fourth quarter on the third to last drive. I went down for a tackle and my helmet hit the ground first and just cut it right there (between the eyes)."

However, it didn't matter to Thompson that he was hurt or that the score was 43-0 at the time. He wanted to play.

"He gets his nose split wide open, gets four or five stitches, and it's pretty nasty," says defensive tackles coach Don Dunn. "I turn around and he's right back there, running in (to the game). He's just an old throw-back. A lot of the guys wouldn't come back late in the game like that. They just put a big old piece of tape on him and he went back in."

Aside from showing his toughness in a blowout game, Dunn says he is extremely impressed with how well the 6-0, 295-pound freshman performed.

"He played the run really well," Dunn says. "He had a couple of tackles for a loss. His technique grade was 97 percent, which is almost perfect. I don't know if I've ever graded a kid that high. And he's just all over the place. He's full speed...very impressive."

Josh Thompson (97) makes a play in Saturday's victory at Mississippi State.

Playing at full speed is something that Thompson has always taken pride in doing.

"I guess ever since I've been playing I've had a pretty good motor," he says. "I just feel like I'm letting somebody else down if I stop on a play because anything could happen. Somebody could fumble, or somebody could miss a tackle and I could (be there to) make it. There's no reason to stop at any point.

"I try to set a good example for younger guys and older guys," he adds. "I've just always been taught to go to the ball full speed and play full speed all the time because if you don't then you're going to get hurt."

Thompson was named the Most Improved Defensive Lineman by the coaches in spring practice, and also drew praises from the coaches during preseason practices for his hard work. After sitting out last season while taking a redshirt, Thompson is excited that all of his efforts are finally paying off.

"I didn't think I graded out that well," he says of his high marks from Dunn. "I guess I was just in a zone. I didn't really expect it, but I guess that's pretty good. It's good to have a good game. Anybody can have a good game, you just have to keep it up and have another good one, especially this week against LSU. We'll see what happens."

LSU comes to Jordan-Hare Saturday at 2:30 for a battle of nationally-ranked teams that could go a long way in deciding who wins the SEC West. Although Thompson also played in Auburn's season opener against Louisiana-Monroe, he hasn't played in a collegiate game that will be as intense as the LSU game.

"The Tennessee game last year was just unbelievable," he says. "I dressed out for it, didn't play any, but it's probably going to be like that here when LSU comes. I don't know what to think, but it's going to be fun."

"We definitely have to set the tone quick and calm them down a bit," Thompson says. "We really haven't talked about LSU too much yet. Tuesday (the coaches will) talk to us and we'll have a team meeting, and they'll inform us on what we need to do and what we don't need to do."

The defending national champions come in at 2-0, ranked No. 4 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll and No. 5 in the AP. Auburn is 2-0 overall, 1-0 in the SEC and ranked 15th and 14th in the polls. The game will be televised nationally by CBS and ESPN Gameday will be telecast from Auburn as well.

Thompson admits that he's nervous about the game, but not because of the cameras and national attention surrounding it.

"I'm not really nervous because of (the hype)," he says. "I think I'm nervous because I haven't proven myself yet, and I don't know what I can be yet. I'm worried more about the other team than I am the hype. I'm nervous, but it's a good thing too, because usually when I'm nervous I do well."

Thompson will definitely have a chance to prove himself Saturday as he'll be lining up a football's length away from an All-American caliber center.

"I've talked to T.J. (Tommy Jackson) a little bit about (playing against LSU's Ben Wilkerson)," Thompson says. "He's really good. I just have to get in there and see how he does against us--see his blocking style. Whenever we get in there, we'll see what happens."

Jackson, the starter and more experienced player at noseguard, has split time with Thompson fairly evenly at the position through the first two games. With quality depth in the trenches a must, Jackson, a junior, has tried to help his teammate become the best player he can be.

"This year, T.J. really took me under his wings, and pretty much taught me everything I know about the defense," Thompson says. "If I have a question, I just ask him. Just having T.J. there to correct me on stuff and teach me what I did wrong and what I did right, it helps out a lot."

Once Thompson gets more game experience, he should become an even more valuable player on the Auburn defense for years to come. Combined with his relentless attitude on the field, he's already one of the strongest players on the football team in his second year.

"Seventh grade was when I started working out real hard with it," he says. "I've been working out pretty hard ever since then. When I started out, I was pretty strong. I was lifting with the older boys then, so yeah, I was pretty strong compared to everybody else."

Although Josh stands only six feet tall, his overall size has never been a problem for him in football. "I was really short and fat when I was little, and then I kind of ‘skinnied' up," he says. "I got a little bit skinny, and then I don't know, I just got big again…eating too much I guess. It happens."

During the summer before his sophomore year of high school, Thompson gained 40 pounds and switched from fullback and linebacker to tight end and defensive line--as well as handling place-kicking for Statesboro, Ga., High School. Although he contributes the extra pounds to his eating habits, Thompson was adding muscle weight rapidly.

"My junior year at the Nike Camp, I bench pressed 185 pounds 56 times," he says. "I broke the (Nike Combine) record, but then about an hour later some guy from Tennessee broke it. He was just a power lifter so he just came in and did it. I think he did it 62 times."

Thompson was an early commitment to the Tigers after catching the attention of Dunn and Auburn's coaches prior to his senior year at Statesboro, Ga., High.

"I think it was his motor (that stood out)--sideline to sideline every play," Dunn says. "I recruited him. He was doing everything. He played linebacker, he kicked off, he played offense, he played defense. He was just all over the place. Every time I saw him play or practice, it was full speed. Just talking to him and his family and everything…he's just one of those special kids."

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