He might never eat several 16-ounce steaks in one sitting, weigh 330 pounds, or clear out a buffet, but ask Derrick Thompson to fill Pork Chop Womack's enormous shoes and he will just grin and get to work.

"I learned a lot from Pork Chop," Thompson said with a grin. "Pork Chop was great, and I was able to learn the techniques of being a good lineman from him."

Not only was he able to become a good lineman, but arguably the best on this year's team. During the spring the coaches moved Thompson from his customary right tackle position to the left side. A move that meant he would be protecting the backside of the quarterback.

"That move really gave me confidence that the coaches felt I could play," Thompson said. "I am going up against more speed being on that side, and that really plays into the way I like to play."

Speed is definitely one area that plays into the hands of Thompson. While in high school he was recruited as a defensive end. He was also ranked as the No. 10 defensive lineman in the country by one publication. Many of those honors stemmed from being timed at 4.8 seconds in the forty yard dash.

While he posted outstanding numbers at the defensive end position, 114 tackles and 14 sacks during his senior season, he also excelled at tight end.

"I never really was offensive minded, I loved playing defense," Thompson said of his beginnings in football. "I think playing defensive line in high school has helped me the more I have played offensive line."

Though Thompson has fallen right into his position at tackle, it did take some convincing to make the move a smooth one.

"During my red-shirt year the coaches talked to me a lot about moving to the offensive line," Thompson said. "I think the move has really paid off, even though at first I really didn't want to switch."

While Thompson already had the necessary size and athleticism to be a top-notch offensive lineman, he needed to learn the basics.

"One of the big things that the coaches kept teaching me was my technique," Thompson said of his learning experience. "I was able to move and get in position, but I wasn't using good technique, so I would get beat. The main thing I learned was how to use my feet."

Growing up playing defense and then making a switch to an unfamiliar position might seem like a disadvantage, but with twin brother Eric on the same team with him, Thompson always had competition in high school.

"Coach made us go against each other in practice. I would have to block him and then he would have to block me," Thompson said. "Usually whichever one of us was on defense would win. That was just normal."

Having a twin has not just come in handy for playing football, it has also helped Thompson with the adjustment to college life.

"It is great to have my brother here with me. That is something that I really enjoy about playing here," Thompson said. "We can push each other. And when I am down he picks me up. When he is down I pick him up. It really helps a lot to have family that close."

Who knows, maybe in the next three years MSU fans will see bookend tackles that have a striking resemblance.

"I just want to see him succeed," Derrick said. "I get to push him and try to make him better everyday. I really would like for him to be out there with me."

Grant Alford is a free-lance correspondent for Gene's Page. He is a student at Mississippi State University. You can contact him by email at

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