Thigpen Family Looking For The Total Package

A Tennessee verbal commit since April, a lot has changed for four-star running back Damien Thigpen this week.

Still a Tennessee pledge, Damien Thigpen is now considering three other schools.

Notre Dame, UCLA and Mississippi State are now getting a chance to prove to the 5-foot-9, 170-pound speedster from Stonewall Jackson High in Manassas, Va., that their respective program is the best for him.

"I thought we should make sure Damien has all his options considered, and that he will be in a place where he is going to be nurtured, and be a student-athlete, not a athlete-student," Douglas Thigpen, Damien's father explained.

"We're still committed to Tennessee, but we want to make a proper-informed decision."

Irish head coach Charlie Weis offered Thigpen a scholarship on Wednesday, and sent assistant coach Ron Powlus to the Thigpen house that night for a PowerPoint presentation.

"Coach Powlus came out and came by, and talked to me and everything, and showed me Notre Dame and what the school had to offer," the younger Thigpen said. "It was enjoyable and I liked visiting with him."

Thigpen, who is being recruited as a running back that would also play some slot receiver for the Irish, was really impressed with the academic values Notre Dame has.

"Probably the graduation rates and stuff like that, and the academic side that goes along with football," Thigpen said. "How if you graduate from Notre Dame, it's very prestigious, as well as the football program."

"And that was important to me too," Thigpen's father added. He played college football at Southern Miss.

"I would really love for Damien to get his degree, and I know that is important to coach Weis and coach Powlus. I would love for Damien to get a chance to play in the NFL, but you never know what's going to happen."

The same can be said for recruiting.

Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen also offered Thigpen a scholarship on Wednesday, and will be sending an assistant coach to the house on Thursday. This weekend, Thigpen will take an official visit to UCLA.

"These guys are classy, classy coaches and they know what they're doing," the elder Thigpen said of each school. He spoke with Weis for 45 minutes on Wednesday.

"He's a tremendous guy."

This past fall, Thigpen only played in five games because of a torn ligament in his ankle. One of the fastest players in the country, with 4.3 speed, he returned for the final five contests of the season, and still rushed for 1,000 yards and 15 touchdowns. The team rallied for a 3-2 finish after an 0-5 start.

Besides academics, Thigpen also liked the fact that Notre Dame and Weis play and even sometimes start a lot of freshmen.

"That's always a good addition to the equation," he said.

A school's depth chart at the running back position will not be a concern.

"I don't think Damien has ever been scared of depth charts. If you're going to be a football player, you have to compete. These programs are going to bring in the best players year in and year out. That should not affect his decision at all."

The Thigpen family isn't sure when they'll visit Notre Dame and Mississippi State, but they plan to. Signing day may come and go before Thigpen ultimately puts his John Hancock on a letter-of-intent.

"We're just going to decide as a family what's the best thing for all parties," the elder Thigpen said. "We're not into holding people hostage. I don't think that's proper for a 17-year old to think he's a lot bigger than he really is. We're going to give each program an opportunity to say what they have to say.

"He needs to be in a place where he's going to be nurtured and treated with respect, and where he's going to be a student athlete." Top Stories