Current Miami verbal, El Camino Junior College defensive tackle Justin Thompson, has had his share of attention. He went from having three offers in high school from schools like Idaho and San Jose State , to now sitting on over 20 offers, from schools like LSU, Ohio State and Miami .
It was the last team he actually committed to some time ago, but being one of the hottest defensive tackle recruits in the country, Thompson knew he had lots of options to explore. So, that's just what he's doing.
Only thing is, and sad as it was for Nebraska fans, the big red was nowhere in sight.
That has changed recently however, and as recently as just this last evening when Thompson decided to take a harder look at the Huskers. And it wasn't that he wasn't interested in them before. It was only that Nebraska didn't seem that interested in him.
"After I committed, they basically stopped showing me any attention and I guess from what my coaches told me, they figured they were out of it and decided to move on," Justin said. "But I just talked to a coach from there last night, and recently they have really picked up the attention.
The attention isn't much of a surprise. While Thompson wasn't a household name coming out of the prep ranks, he's become one at the junior college level, Justin touted as the best JUCO defensive tackle in the country and the third best DT overall.
Thompson thinks about where he is at now and marvels at the progression at one position, because in high school he almost played them all. "If my team needed something, that was where I was put. I was the kicker, the punter, a defensive end, an offensive tackle – you name it, I did it," Thompson said of his time at Westchester High School in Los Angeles , California . "It wasn't possible to concentrate on just one thing, so I guess I never realized what I could do."
It didn't take him long to find that niche in junior college, though, Thompson gaining ground on his team quickly, notching 52 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, six sacks, one blocked field goal, a safety, five forced fumbles, three recoveries and eight batted down passes, all during his first JUCO year.
And while he progressed as a player from his numbers, he was realizing just as much development physically, during that time. "I was working hard, but it's really hard to figure it out, I just stacked on close to 40 pounds over an off-season," Thompson said, the junior college sophomore going from just under 260 to over 290 pounds. "It's obviously made me a more physical force, but I still have all my quickness."
It's no wonder that the offers have come in like crazy, and the process itself has been just as hectic for Thompson. His choices seem to keep growing all at the same time as he is trying to narrow things down. But what is perhaps a little surprising is that while Nebraska hasn't been after Thompson for that long, between what he's heard from teammates and what he knows from someone he played against in high school, he's warming up to everything he's found out.
"I know Simi is real big on Nebraska , and I have learned a lot about them from him," Thompson said of teammate and fellow five star, defensive end Simi Kuli. "Tavares is pretty high on them too," he said of El Camino starting running back Tavares Pressley, who is slated to visit Nebraska with Kuli. "And I remember learning a bit about Nebraska from high school, because I played against Marlon Lucky who ended up going there. The game we played, he scored like eight touchdowns, and pretty much did it all on his own."
That kind of insight is invaluable, and Thompson said that a school he hadn't really thought of just a month ago has now become one he's throwing on his short list. "I've learned enough about them that I think it's worth taking an official visit to see them," Thompson said. "I have two scheduled already, one with Ohio State and the other to LSU. I'll throw Nebraska on there and the other two spots are going to be for the schools who call me and are places I think I might fit in."
The possibility of playing on another team with Kuli doesn't hurt either. "It would be great to play with him, because other than me, I think he is one of the big leaders of this defense," Thompson said. "He's the best defensive player I have ever played with, and his love and passion for the game have just gone crazy this last year. He's so good and it would be something to play with him at the next level. So, if it worked out that, that happened, that wouldn't be so bad."
Don't start calling it a package deal, though, as Thompson said that while it's a "cool" thing to think about, he's got plenty of other things to think about right now. And with the teams on his list which you have seen, he's got some big dogs in mind.
That's what Thompson said will make this decision so tough, but it's one he's grateful to have. It's one he never thought about having out of the prep level. "I could have gone to Idaho or someplace like that, if I really would have wanted to," Thompson said. "But I decided to go the junior college route instead. And I have to say that it's been just a blessing for me, because I have gotten to play just one position and really find out for myself what I could do. And it's been pretty good, but it's not where I want to be yet. I have a lot more things I want to accomplish."
Justin will have three years to play two and expects to graduate in May of 2008, but also said that he's going to try and graduate early. He said that he is going to try and get enough credits early enough so that he could potentially graduate in December.
Thompson also said that of his official visit to Nebraska , he would ideally like to take that at the same time Kuli is, which Thompson believes is the second week in October. But Justin said that he may be visiting Ohio State at that time, so can't say for certain right now just when he's going to be able to visit the big red.