Thompson's Task

Former Longhorns defensive backs coach Duane Akina had every intention of traveling to Kerrville to watch Johnny Manziel in action during the 2011 recruiting cycle, where an offer would have likely been extended to the future Aggie as a safety.

But he never made it that far.

Akina, who now holds the same position at Stanford, had already found another high school quarterback that he envisioned he’d be able to mold into a legitimate collegiate defensive back.

His name: Mykkele Thompson.

It would be hard to blame Akina for not offering the future Heisman Trophy winner if you saw what Thompson was capable of doing for San Antonio Stevens.

Primarily a quarterback, Thompson was a three-year starter who tallied 3,614 yards rushing and 48 TDs, 1,280 yards passing and nine TDs and 31 receptions for 428 yards and five TDs over his final two seasons.

He was also one of the top track and field athletes San Antonio had seen in some time, breaking San Antonio’s long jump city record at 25-feet-2-inches as a senior.

And early returns were Akina made a wise decision for what he wanted out of the position.

Thompson, who didn’t have much experience as a defensive player, led the team with eight special teams tackles as a freshman, exhibiting the kind of speed and toughness Akina had envisioned. He also blocked a punt that was returned for a touchdown by Josh Turner against Iowa State. His future looked bright.

But his career hasn’t ascended like many thought it would as a full-time safety, rather it’s been more up-and-down.

Bad angles – vs. Iowa State last season – have been an issue as have poor tackling at times despite his finishing six on the team in tackles the last two seasons.

Those were all on full display in a “low-light” reel Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong made for Thompson – and every other UT player – that featured 10 to 25 not-so-flattering plays. He watched his with Strong in Strong’s office.

“That was brutal,” Thompson said. “It was really brutal.”

Those are all things Thompson thinks he’s corrected as he enters his senior season, a contract year in many respects. He feels like he’s shed the label of “that guy in high school who played quarterback” to “a legit collegiate free safety.”

“It was hard for me my first couple of years, going from running away from contact to running towards contact,” Thompson said. “There comes a point in your career where you just have to do what you're told, really, and do what it takes for the team.”

That could include playing some cornerback, which NFL scouts have told HornsDigest’s Chip Brown they really like Thompson as. It would allow someone like Quandre Diggs - a sure-tackler with plenty of experience – to be the last line of defense.

But that could be worst-case scenario. Right now Thompson, as he has the past two seasons, will be the guy at free safety with not a whole lot of competition behind him.

He knows he has to step up. He doesn’t want another “low-light” reel being made for him again.

"It just makes me hungry, personally, to get better and be able to show what kind of player I believe I am to everybody," Thompson said. "There comes a point in your career you have to do what you're told."

Off the field that includes obeying Strong’s core values he wants all his players to follow. On the field, it could mean simplifying his responsibilities and focuses.

“[I’m] not trying to do too much, and do my assignment,” Thompson said when asked what his roll was this season. “Just worry about what my assignments are and not focus on what everyone else has to do, but be aware of their assignments as well.”

That could be easier said than done if Thompson is paired up to someone as inexperienced as sophomore walk-on Dylan Haines in the season opener with Josh Turner suspended for an unknown number of games.

Haines, who picked off Tyrone Swoopes’ first pass of the spring game, is working with the first team at strong safety.

But Thompson insists he’s not worried about Haines or any depth concerns at safety.

“He's made plays,” Thompson said. “That's the name of the game, you make plays. He made a lot of plays in the spring, that's when he got his opportunity to play. He was being a DB, a ball hawker, that's what he does.”

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