RECRUITING: Thompson Is The Total Package

BELLE GLADE --- On Glades Central's first offensive series against Immokalee last year, a defensive back got a hand on a pass intended for Deonte Thompson and slapped it down. On the way back to the huddle, Thompson heard the trash talk. Thompson said, "He was saying, 'you ain't nothing … you ain't catching a ball on me tonight' and stuff like that."

(See Deonte Thompson profile)

Jogging back to the huddle, Thompson simply looked his opponent square in the eye, smiled and said, "We'll see." No more talking. He let his actions speak louder than words after that.

On the very next play, Thompson shed the defender's jam at the line of scrimmage like it was just another ear of the silver queen corn that grows so tall and sweet in the black muck of Belle Glade. Once he had a step, the touchdown was a foregone conclusion.

"I burned him bad," said Thompson, the latest in a long line of wide receivers with an extra gear to come out of Glades Central. Former Gators Ray McDonald Sr., Willie Snead (Glades Central coach) and Reidel Anthony are part of a wide receiver pipeline to the pros from this outpost on the shores of Lake Okeechobee. In the most recent NFL Draft, Glades Central alum Santonio Holmes (Ohio State) was the first receiver taken.

Thompson may very well prove to be the best ever from Belle Glade. He is the fastest wide receiver in the nation. The 6-1, 190-pounder has been timed at 10.3 over 100 meters and he's turned in a 4.28 in the 40.

There are a lot of track guys that play football. All they have is their blazing speed and if that's neutralized, they are rendered ineffective. Thompson is just the opposite. He's a football player that happens to be an extraordinary sprinter. Speed certainly is a big part of his game and he is so fast that he rarely has the luxury of single coverage. Almost always it's two or three defenders that he has to beat and usually, they're lined up in some kind of deep zone.

"I see a lot of cover three," Thompson said.

He still sees the tough guys that try to jam him at the line of scrimmage, but corners learn quickly that he has a wiry strong upper body and he's not contact shy.

"I feel that I can beat you with my feet at the line or if you want to get in my face, I'm strong enough to beat you there," he said. "I can bench 280 now and I'm going to get that up to 300 soon. My goal is to have that at 350 before I leave here. I think I can do that."

When teams do try to handle him with one-on-one coverage, they usually try to give the DB plenty of cushion. If there's no cushion, Thompson lights up like a Christmas tree.

"If I see press coverage I'm thinking touchdown all the way," he said. "I'm quick enough and strong enough and determined enough that I'm going to get off the line and once I get a step, I'm gone. People tried to jam me a lot early last season and when they found out I could beat the press at the line, they went cover three on me a lot of the time. That's okay. I know how to find open space to get the ball." He caught 35 passes for 767 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2005 and he returned 12 kickoffs for 515 yards and two touchdowns. He knows he will have to work hard to improve on those numbers this year because he's a marked man. Every opponent knows that Thompson is the home run threat, the guy that can beat you every single play so that means the schemes will change week to week and he'll have to make all sorts of adjustments to contribute to the Glades Central offense.

Making adjustments means he has to continue to improve his route-running. He has a lot of confidence in Snead, the former Gator and NFL wideout that is the Glades Central head coach. He knows Snead has seen it all and can teach him how to beat any kind of coverage but that takes practice and plenty of it.

"There aren't any days off," he said. "I'm working right now on my post corner because it's not precise like my other routes. I have to learn to run every route perfectly and I have to learn to adjust my route based on what the other team's doing. There's a lot more to all this than just lining up and running fast. I want to be known as a guy that runs the right route every time and reads the defense and makes all the right adjustments. You gotta know what you're doing if you're going to be the best. I want to be the best."

Being the best is important to Thompson, who says he's being recruited hard by almost every top-25 program in the country. He wants to be the best wide receiver in the nation but more importantly, he wants to do whatever it takes for Glades Central to be the best in the nation. Glades Central went 12-1 last year, a great record for sure but short of the goal of a state championship.

Simply winning a lot of games won't cut it at Glades Central, which has won five state championships including three since 1998. The goal for the 2006 season is the same as always --- winning the state championship --- but there is a greater prize that Thompson feels is attainable, particularly considering the abundance of speed and talent on the Glades Central roster this year.

"We want to win a national championship," said Thompson. "A state championship first and then a national championship … that's the goal and we've got the team that can do it. We have high expectations but if you don't think you can be the best, then you'll never try hard to be the best."

Thompson is the star of stars on a team that has a number of players that will be adorning Division I rosters next year. Offensive tackles Jatavious Jackson and Ernest McCoy are big time prospects just like defensive backs Damien Berry and Johnny Lee Dixon. Strong armed quarterback Bryan Mann is rising fast on a lot of charts. The talent doesn't stop there, either. There are at least four other seniors that could earn Division I offers and there are plenty of sophomores and juniors that are simply waiting their turn.

The abundance of talent and speed is the reason that every Glades Central practice this spring has been a virtual who's who in the college profession. Name the school and one or more of its coaches has stopped in. At a scrimmage last Saturday night, Jim Leavitt (South Florida head coach) was there along with Ole Miss (former Miami) assistant Art Kehoe and assistants from Pitt and other schools. Wednesday, Florida Coach Urban Meyer was there along with assistants Doc Holliday and Billy Gonzales. Greg Schiano (Rutgers head coach) was there along with one of his assistants. Michigan and Michigan State had assistants there as did Alabama and Tennessee. Late in the afternoon, Miami Coach Larry Coker stopped by. On other days, Ohio State, Texas, Southern Cal, Penn State, Auburn, Georgia and LSU have taken a look.

The college coaches are there because Glades Central is loaded but even with all the talent and all the speed at so many positions, it's Thompson who commands the most attention. Any time he runs a pass route, every eye is glued to him. He's got the size, the speed, the hands, the moves. He is the total package and that's why he's got boxes full of letters and committable offer sheets.

He's trying to give everybody an equal chance but he understands that at some point he's going to have to make a decision.

"Right now, everybody is in it," he said. "The in-state schools are recruiting me the hardest but I'm letting everybody give me their best shot. I have to do that because it's important to me to go to the place that's best for me for football, track and education. I've got a lot of thinking to do and I've got a lot of good people like Coach Snead helping me out. I'm sure I'll make the right choice."

Football, obviously, is the ticket but track is part of the equation, too. He's got Olympic potential as a sprinter so whichever school he chooses will have to have a strong, established track program.

"That's part of the deal for me," he said. "Track makes me faster for football and keeps me in great shape. It's very important to me that I'll get to run track for a really good program when I go to college."

As for educational goals, he wants to own his own real estate business after he earns his college degree. He plans to major in business with an emphasis on real estate. He knows he'll get the opportunity to earn that college degree, too, because he's already fully qualified for a Division I school.

"I've already taken my tests, got my scores back and I'm fully qualified," he said. "I'm good with my grades and all I got to do is keep it up. I want to get better though. I want my GPA up there at 3.0 when I graduate."

He will hit several football camps this summer and he'll also narrow down the field of suitors to a more manageable number.

"I can't say exactly when I'm going to commit," he said. "It could be this summer or it may be later on. I'll commit when I'm ready, when I'm real comfortable that I've found one place that's best."

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