Michael Thompson ran a blistering forty at an Illinois summer camp on his home field in East Peoria. The running back is expected to be fast, but this one was special to him after missing a whole season due to ACL surgery on his knee.
"I ran even faster than I was. I ran a 4.51 today. The fastest I ran last year was a 4.53. Eleven months out of surgery, I'm feeling good."
Thompson not only has his health, he has his confidence back. As he went through a variety of agility drills, he never once wondered whether the knee might give out on him again.
"Nothing. If it's gonna tear, it's gonna tear. There's nothing you can really do about it."
The Illini camp also gave him a chance to learn new techniques and test himself against quality opponents.
"It was really nice. It was nice competing with some good players around the area. It made me better. Now I know what I need to work on to play in the Big 10.
Illini running back coach Tim Salem gave the 5'-9", 202 pounder positive feedback after his performance.
"He said I'm one of the best guys he's seen. I just need to work on my burst. After 15 yards, to score you've got to put that burst on. I have plenty to work on, starting tomorrow. Get after it."
Thompson already knew his strengths as a running back. The camp helped him recognize areas that need improvement.
"I have power, vision, agility and speed. One thing I need to work on is my burst. I also need to work on lateral movement. My cuts can probably get a little cleaner."
His freshman performance with the East Peoria varsity gave credibility to his potential.
"I had a pretty good freshman year. I had about 45 carries, 8 touchdowns and 500 yards. He was trying to save me. We kind of struggled with our line, and he didn't want me getting hurt."
But after missing a whole season, only a couple schools have been showing interest.
"I went to the NIU camp, and they were really impressed with me. NIU and Illinois are the schools that are talking to me so far."
Thompson is looking for a college that can help him reach his goals.
"I'm looking for a good group of people. Someone who is gonna make sure I go to class and take care of me, make me get better. Make me reach my goals. I want to go to a winning program too, and help them win."
It appears he will choose between two possible majors.
"I'm thinking about Sports Medicine or Business, one of those two."
East Peoria could field quality teams in both 2012 and 2013.
"We've got a lot of linemen coming back this year. They're working hard and looking good. There are a lot of kids in my class who started for us. It's a lot of experience that will help out later."