His initials are "DT," so you could say that David Thompson was born to be a defensive tackle. But it's taken the New Jersey native five long years to get meaningful playing time at Ohio State.
The 6-foot-5, 290-pound Thompson redshirted in 1998 and barely played in 1999 and 2000 (saw action in a total of three games). Last year, he played in all 12 games, but averaged just one tackle per game. Not exactly the type of production or playing time he was hoping for. But this year, Thompson has established himself as a key component on the talented D-Line. The Buckeyes have been using a six-man rotation and while Thompson is still not a starter, he is seeing a lot of playing time.
"It feels pretty good to finally be a contributor," Thompson said. "I've been through a lot of adversity my first four years and it's nice to have a part in the success we're having. I'm just going out there and giving it my all and trying to help this team anyway I can. We have a good D-Line with Kenny Peterson, Will (Smith), Darrion (Scott), Tim Anderson and Simon (Fraser) and I'm glad I can play with these guys before I leave."
During those first four years, was there a time that Thompson was down on himself?
"No, I just looked at it as my time was going to come. I never really got down on myself, I just kept working hard, working hard, working hard. I had a couple injuries to fight through, but coach (Jim) Heacock told me I was going to get my chance and that I needed to be ready when I got it.
"And I knew coming into this year that I was ready. I knew I worked hard in the offseason and this was my last year and I was going to give it all I had on the field. I was really looking forward to this year and I'm just trying to enjoy it while it lasts," Thompson said.
But that enjoyment was set aside after Thompson came up lame at an early-August practice.
"When I hurt my knee in camp, that kind of scared me. It seemed like it might be serious at first and with this being my senior year, I was pretty down about that. But then when I found out it was just a sprain and I didn't have to have surgery, I was back in the swing of things."
Like the other fifth-year seniors on the team (Peterson, Cie Grant, Donnie Nickey, Scott Kuhnhein, Andy Groom, Mike Stafford), Thompson has seen a little bit of everything during his time at OSU.
So, how does this year's Buckeye squad match-up with the talented '98 team that finished No. 2 in the nation?
"I would say we compare pretty well with the '98 team. But I think we're a little closer, a little more of a tight knit unit in my opinion. The talent matches up pretty well, but this is the closest team I've ever been a part of."
What are the strengths and weaknesses of this year's team in Thompson's eyes?
"Our strength is that we play together and play the full 60 minutes. I would say our weakness is that we need to play better on the road... As a defensive line, our strength is definitely our depth. We have an eight-man rotation (counting Mike Kudla and Marcus Green), so we can go in there and play three plays, get out, take a short rest and get back in there. We all stay pretty fresh throughout the game."
Any concerns about the run defense? Wisconsin's Anthony Davis had a lot of success against the Bucks last week and Penn State's Larry Johnson is up next.
"No, I'm not concerned. Nobody had ran the ball right at us before Wisconsin. They had some success, but we adjusted and came out with the W. And now we have to get ready for another good running team in Penn State. They are going to do the same stuff that Wisconsin did."
Finally, we had to get Thompson's take on his "knockout" blow against Badger quarterback Brooks Bollinger.
"It was a pretty good hit. Simon (Fraser) was already on the quarterback and I just kept going after the ball and going after the quarterback and never stopped moving and just hit him," Thompson said.
Was it a dream hit?
"Yeah, you could say it was a dream hit. You know, especially since it was with another D-Lineman. I give all credit to Simon though. He got there before I did and I just happened to see (Bollinger) still up and I just took off running and hit him with everything I had."
Bollinger fell to the turf and didn't get up right away. It was the fourth hard hit he took from the Bucks and it ended up being his last play of the day. Did Thompson know right away that he got him as good as he did?
"Oh yeah, I felt it right away. The way I hit him, I knew I got a pretty good piece of him. I mean, I was really fired up out there, but it was just a heat of the moment thing. I celebrated with Simon and the rest of the defense and just went back to the sidelines and got ready for the next series."
Was the big hit a topic of discussion among the players after the game?
"Yeah, on the plane ride, everybody was talking about it. But it wasn't that
big of a deal. The guys were just like, ‘That was a good hit, you really got him' and that was pretty much it."