Tedric Thompson's older brother Cedric played in three bowl games during his college career at Minnesota. He would tell Tedric about his experiences.
“But I didn't really understand how great it is to play in a bowl game until we got down here this week,” the younger Thompson said. “It is a blessing to be here and see things I never would have imagined.
“It has been a long four years and for us to finally get here with all these bowl gifts and to be staying in a hotel like we are staying on the River Walk, it is just a cool experience. I am glad we are finally here after all the ups and downs.”
Thompson spent some time reminiscing about the hard times he faced as a Buff. He remembers clashing with head coach Mike MacIntyre when he was an underclassman.
“I didn't really have a father figure so I wasn't used to a man telling me something that I needed to hear,” Thompson said. “I was just hearing it from my mom growing up so when Coach Mac would get on me, we used to butt heads. He finally got through to me and we have a great relationship now.
“He will still get on me if I do something wrong. He got on me the other day in practice. He is going to stay on the whole team and that is the reason we are doing so well, because he never lets up on us. We appreciate him for that.”
Thompson also remembers waking up in a Boulder Hospital wondering how he got there. On Oct. 25, 2014, eight games into his sophomore season, Thompson suffered a head injury late during the Buffaloes' overtime loss to UCLA.
“That was the worst moment of my career. I don't remember getting hurt,” he recalled. “I had never been put in the hospital because of a football injury before. My whole family was impacted. My mom was watching the game at home in California with my whole family, just to put them through that was hard.
“I remember getting up in the hospital and the first thing I did was ask if we won. They said no, and then I called my mom because I knew she was back there stressing. It took about a week or so to get over it.”
Joe Tumpkin came in as Thompson's new position coach that spring, not knowing initially how traumatic that event was.
“Eventually I found out about it during a staff outing when one of the other coaches told me about it. After that, it made some sense and I talked to Tedric about it,” Tumpkin said. “It helps when you know information so you take different approaches with different things. We talked about how we are going to tackle better in those situations.”
Thompson did not miss a game as an upperclassman and his 13 career interceptions rank him tied for fifth on CU's all-time list. He is also tied for sixth in career pass deflections.
“You see how hard he works and how much he improved, Tedric started to understand the game and push himself to a different level,” Tumpkin said. “To me he has been one of the best safeties in the conference the last two years. It has been fantastic coaching him.”
Maka plans to stay
Outside linebacker Pookie Maka, who redshirted this fall, confirmed a Daily Camera report that he no longer plans to take a two year LDS mission.
“About a month ago I was on the phone with my parents talking about it and we concluded it would be better for me just to stay and get ready for next season,” he said.
Maka saw the strides he was making in the weight room and did not want to put his football career on hold.
“I have been getting bigger, stronger, faster and it has been fun being around here with the whole team having success,” he said. “I am looking forward to the opportunity to impress the coaches this spring.”
Jimmie Gilbert graduates at outside linebacker, while Derek McCartney, N.J. Falo, Terran Hasselbach, Sam Bennion and Maka are set to return.
Maka has also been practicing on every special teams unit except for kickoff return.
*** Senior defensive back Chidobe Awuzie earned a degree in Business Operations Management earlier this month so he will begin prep for the Senior Bowl following Thursday night's game. He could have left early for the NFL a year ago, but said that thought never crossed his mind.
“I feel like people from the outside kind of made that a thing but it was never a question I was going to come back,” Awuzie said. “In a Nigerian household academics always come first so I always had it in my mind I was going to finish my degree. And then just seeing the opportunity we had with this team this year was more incentive to come back. It has been really a lovely experience and I am very thankful I did come back.”
*** The Buffs led the Pac-12 in five major defensive categories this season: passing yards allowed (182.5), first downs allowed (222), pass efficiency defense (98.1), defensive touchdowns scored (3) and red zone defense (73.8). They finished second in the conference in total defense (328.3), scoring defense (20.5) and third down conversion defense (31.6).
*** Colorado will lose eight starters on defense after the Alamo Bowl. However, the Buffs are expected to return 11 players that experienced at least 100 defensive snaps in 2016, and six players that were on the field for at least 250 defensive snaps this season.
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