Jim McElwain is in the midst of recruiting his first full recruiting class at Florida and trying to find the best pieces to fill in the spots. Well finding a speedy 6-foot-2, 230 pound running back to climb aboard certainly points things in the right direction. That happened late Wednesday when Mark Thompson pledged his commitment to McElwain.
“Earlier today I talked to Coach Mac on the phone for a good 45 minutes,” Thompson said of the big thing that tipped the ball in the Gators favor. “We talked about a lot of things… you know football, about manhood, and life after football. That was the first coach I really talked to like that and the direction that the conversation went.
“I talked to other coaches and have had great conversations, but something about that one. I always felt good about Florida before that conversation and even before they offered me. I didn’t want to pop right when they offered me the first time, I wanted to do my research and make sure everything does check out. It did, and I hoped it would, and I did it now…”
Originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Thompson really appreciated McElwain’s approach to him as a person rather than a target in recruiting.
“It wasn’t him preaching to me, I could tell sincerely he wanted me to make the best decision for me,” Thompson said. “That meant a lot that he wasn’t selfish. All the things we talked about were things I should be thinking about. He is just a really great guy and someone I am more than happy to play for.”
New running back coach Tim Skipper has been recruiting Thompson hard and despite the distance factor and the silly NCAA rules about communication between coach and prospect, Skipper has gotten the Gator message across to the big man.
“He came out and saw me before the spring game,” Thompson said. “He told the coaches some good things about me. I was very excited to get to know him. “
He knows the state, but really isn’t familiar with Gainesville outside of watching the Gators on television for much of his childhood.
“I have family down there,” he said. “My father’s roots are from the Bahamas and that isn’t far at all. I have cousins and friends that go to school there. The weather is great. I am more familiar with the Orlando area, but the whole state has great weather.
“I haven’t been to Gainesville, I plan to go this summer, but I haven’t yet. I will probably visit officially in the middle of November when the season is over. I want to take a visit, see all the players and see them in action. It should still be the season at that point and I am really excited about it. I can’t wait to see the atmosphere in person rather than just watch it on TV.
“I have always had love for Penn State, Temple, and Pitt, but outside of that I just fell in love with Florida football the first time I laid my eyes on it. It was very violent and interesting and actually made me want to play football.”
He’s a big sized back, but he also has some wiggle and speed to him. He says he works on all of that.
“I would describe my game as instinctive,” he said. “If I have a pre-play read or have the ball and I see something I am going for it. I know how to take what the defense gives me. I know how to make the big play. My quickness and speed are there and people don’t think someone at 230 can move as fast as I do. I work hard to maintain the speed.
“I definitely made my game better this spring, y understanding of the running back position, rather than just being an athlete and going out there and playing. I have the framework, I just have to keep accepting the coaching to be the best version of myself before I take that next step.”
Thompson says he plans on making Gator fans proud.
“I will always make Florida look good on and off the field,” he said. “On Saturday, when we suit up, I will always give my best effort. I will bring my A-game. When the game is over I will always be able to accept it and be humble about it and keep everyone’s spirits high. With NCAA football as a whole, I just wanted to be the best person I can be when I go to Florida. I want to make everyone go to Florida, even though I already thought everyone wanted to go to Florida. I just want to be another reason why.”