That's the case with stellar defensive tackle prospect Josh Thompson, who gave a verbal commitment to Auburn on Monday becoming the first member of the Class of 2003 for the football Tigers. The 6-1, 289-pounder with 4.97 speed in the 40-yard dash says that his decision basically came down to where he felt the most comfortable and that was on the Plains.
"I visited Georgia Tech and South Carolina and I've been to Florida," Thompson tells Inside The Auburn Tigers. "Georgia Tech was probably in the running with Auburn, but I just really didn't like the atmosphere and being in that big city. The reason I verbally committed to Auburn was just the coaches and the atmosphere. Coach (Don) Dunn and coach (Gene) Chizik and coach (Tommy) Tuberville are all real nice. They seem like real good guys. That is what I was looking for in coaches. It's a big-time school in a little town and I like that because Statesboro is a little town. Those are probably the two biggest reasons in my mind."
Expected to be the first four-year starter for head coach Buzz Busby, Thompson was the catalyst on a defense that led his team to a perfect 15-0 season and a state title in 2001. Finishing the season with 56 solo tackles and 44 assists, Thompson beat constant double teams from his nose guard position to total 10 ½ sacks and 20 tackles for loss as well.
"I can get off the line pretty quick," Thompson says of his strengths as a player. "I'm pretty strong. I use my hands real good. I guess I'm quick for about 10 yards. Just my experience of playing since I was a freshman has helped me learn about how offensive lines block and everything they do
"I just need to keep getting quicker and faster," Thompson adds. "We lift weights a lot so I guess my strength needs to improve as well. You always need to get stronger."
Getting stronger may be a chore for Thompson considering that he is already one of the strongest high school players in the nation heading into his senior year. With a bench press of 440 pounds and a squat of 650, he is already equal to and beyond what most college football players his size can do. What is even more impressive is his stamina. That was shown earlier this summer at a Nike Combine in Athens, Ga., when he did 56 repetitions of 185 pounds to establish what was then a record for the showcase of prospects from around the country.
While he was already on the map for recruiters everywhere that performance put him squarely in the sights for several schools. Already hearing from some on his visits and getting mail almost every day, Thompson sought the advice of his high school coaching staff to help him determine what he should do and if he should commit early on wait until later in the process. In the end Thompson says he knew what he wanted to do all along.
"I've been talking to people," Thompson says of his decision-making process. "Coach (Jeff) Kaiser went to Georgia and he talked with me on the way to Savannah the other day about it. Then I went in Coach Busby's office and we talked for about an hour and a half. They didn't really have a preference to commit early or late, but I think going ahead and getting it out of the way was the best choice for me because I know Auburn is where I want to go. I think I'll fit in real good up there. I had my mind set on them the whole time so I thought I might as well go ahead and get some of the hassle out of the way."
Tiger Ticket Extra: Unlike many prospects, Thompson didn't grow up a fan of a particular college football team. As a matter of fact, he wasn't even a fan of college football period. As he embarks on his senior season, Thompson says that he's only witnessed one game in person other than three or four games by hometown Georgia Southern, a perennial Division I-AA powerhouse. He says that's about to change for the better though when he comes to Auburn this fall to watch a game in Jordan-Hare Stadium. "I'm looking real forward to it," he says. "I'm not sure which games I'm coming to, but when I get our schedule and their schedule and compare it I'll see what weekends I can come up."