"We knew we really weren't equipped to win those games," said Thompson, who now lives in Tulsa.
But the tough times just made the good times better, and the former Cowboy has certainly enjoyed himself the last three months.
"We'd be favored if we went to play Miami right now, we'd be favored if we played Michigan there, and to go from using that as our bowl game (in the early 1990s) to where if we were to play those teams now we'd be favored at their stadium, that's a huge turnaround," said Thompson, an OSU season ticket holder who also makes several road trips each year to watch the Cowboys.
Thompson is so proud of what this season's Cowboy team has accomplished thus far and the opportunity it has to win the Big 12 South title and a berth in the Big 12 Championship game that he took matters into his own hands this past weekend.
"I was driving back from the Kansas game and thinking back on some of the things that have transpired the last 19 years to get us to where we are now, and I just wanted to thank him," he said.
That led Thompson to send an e-mail to Gundy, who mentioned it to media members Monday.
"Everybody has a sense of pride," said Gundy. "After the Nebraska game, everybody wanted to win, and people will be down for a couple of days but then they come back because there's pride in what we're doing now. They rally and they come back.
"We want to win every game, and I wish we would, but we still want to continue to play at a high level every Saturday. If you remember, four or five years ago when these questions were being asked, I said I just want to be consistent on a year to year basis around here, where we're playing at a high level and the Oklahoma State people are proud all the time.
"We haven't played in a game this year where we didn't have a chance to win. To me, that's when you're really taking a step in your program, when you go on the field every game that you have and you have a chance to win legitimately, then you've made some strides.
"There's a different attitude and a different thought process around here than there used to be," said Gundy.
That's evident in what the Cowboys have done the past three weeks, Thompson said. OSU's 33-16 victory over Texas, with previous wins over Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Baylor, allowed the Cowboys to claim they were the Big 12's Texas state champions. The 48-14 victory over Kansas last weekend, along with the win over Kansas State, gives the Cowboys a chance to claim themselves the Kansas state champions.
Gundy's team can make it a trifecta – of Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma – with a victory over the Sooners on Saturday night at Boone Pickens Stadium, as the Cowboys already have a win over Tulsa.
"It's important to me to have Coach Gundy be the person who's turning it around because he was there when were 0-10-1, to see him stay with it and his desire to succeed .... that means a lot," said Thompson, who began his college playing career the same day that Gundy began his college coaching career in the spring of 1990.
With Thompson's permission, here is the e-mail that he sent to Gundy earlier this week:
Hello Coach, I am not sure if this email will get to you or not but I took the time to put together my perspective on this year's accomplishments and what it means to a member of the 0-10-1 team from 1991. Please read this and if you want to share it with your staff, players or anyone else feel free. Thanks for your time and Go Pokes!
Letter from a former player – perspective from a member of the 0-10-1 and the full circle turnaround:
As a member of OSU's 0-10-1 team in 1991, I can't express all of what it means to see the opposite end of the spectrum play out this year. My first day as a player in the spring of 1990 was Coach Gundy's first day as a coach. During my 4 years as a player our teams were a combined 11-31-1, with 1 road win, coming against Tulsa in a game I think we had just as many fans at as they did.
Due to the probation and the after affects of it our teams never had a winning record or got to travel to a bowl game. We were fortunate enough to get to play some great non-conference games at the likes of Florida, Miami, and Michigan. While it was fun to run out onto the field at those great venues we were never really in position to even compete with those teams.
This year's team went 5-0 on the road. This is literally 5 times as many wins as we had on the road in my 4 years. Plus if you look at the state of the programs that we played and looked up to at the time, each one of them is ranked lower than OSU is right now and they would all most likely be underdogs if we played them today on their home fields.
Coach Gundy has seen the rise of the program, when he was the quarterback, and the fallout from probation and its lingering after affects. It has taken the program roughly 20 years to overcome the mistakes and punishment from the probation to get back and to surpass where the program was in 1988. I am so proud of the job that he has done to stick with our program, to call it home, and to accept the challenge of building us into the competitive national player each and every year. The foundation appears to be laid to help us finally get over the hump of mediocrity and to become a consistent contender.
The wins this year have been so important to OSU fans. We are a group that is there through thick and thin and have unfortunately seen a lot of thin or lean years. It is great to be able to hold your head high around people you work with, at church, in the community, and at road games. I go to 2-3 road games a year and it is such an awesome feeling to win a road game. It makes all the sacrifices and costs worth it and gets you excited to be a part of the next game that much more.
My time as a player didn't end with the amount of wins we had hoped for, however we formed bonds as team members, created memories and friendships and Cowboys for life. I would like to take the time to thank this year's team and coaches for making those who went before you very proud.
Welcome to our family and keep up the good work and representing OSU in such a great manner. Also 10-1 is great, but there are a few more hurdles and goals that are within reach. Here's to turning to what 20 years ago seemed impossible into what is expected.