The first time Seattle native Jason Thompson ever played a snap for Utah nobody knew he would be playing, let alone traveling with the team. Per the transfer rules (he came down with Dave Christensen and Jim Harding from Wyoming in 2014) he had to sit out a year. What few were aware of aside from the coaching staff was that Thompson would have eligibility just in time for their first bowl in game two years: the Las Vegas Bowl against Colorado State.
As the teams lined up you could hear a murmur through the stands and the media booth. “Who the heck is number 9?” Naturally everyone expected Devontae Booker to touch the ball first, which he did on a reverse that he handed off to Thompson who delivered a lateral just before he got drilled by an oncoming defender for CSU to Travis Wilson. Ultimately Wilson was able to launch the ball downfield to speedster receiver Kaelin Clay and the rest was history with the Utes pummeling the Rams 45-10. It’s a moment few Ute fans will forget and it never would have happened if Thompson hadn’t asked the coaches if he could come to the bowl game.
“That really came up because I had to ask if I could travel to the bowl site with the team that year because I was ineligible all season,” Thompson explained. “Once I found out I would be eligible to play for that game they figured that nobody has seen me and I could throw the ball a little bit so I could get it done.”
Thompson has always had a flexible attitude about his role on the team that is evident in the fact he is listed on two depth charts. He is behind Chase Hansen at strong safety and number three on the quarterback depth chart behind freshman Tyler Huntley. “I just do whatever the coaches ask me,” he said. “I have a unique set of talents, a unique set of skills that allow me to help out the team on offense, defense, and special teams.”
That team-first mentality helps Thompson to enjoy every moment he is apart of with the Utes no matter where on the field he is positioned. “I’ve seen a lot of my teammate’s careers end a lot earlier than they expected and just being able to go out there every Saturday as a senior really means a lot and it’s really meaningful to be out there with the team,” he said.
What means even more to Thompson is the vote of confidence he received earlier in the year from his teammates to be the special teams captain. “That meant a lot to me being a transfer and coming here,” Thompson said. “I’m not a starter but I do everything the team asks of me and I felt a lot of respect from my teammates to get that honor.”
When Thompson left Wyoming he says he was looking for a place that fit the bill not only football-wise but academically and socially as well. “I wanted to go to an atmosphere that I thought was best for my future and really just that full-cause experience,” he explained of his decision to come to Utah. “The best part of coming here is having all of my teammates be like brothers basically. They really are like brothers. We hang out all of the time and we do everything together.”
Thompson continues saying that the team and coaches made it easy for him to adjust to being in a new place halfway through his career and that it was just a perfect fit. “It would usually seem hard but the way the guys just welcomed me in- I just fit in.”
Probably what has helped Thompson fit in most of all at Utah is his sense of humor, which is very evident on social media and his work ethic. Both components of his personality play into his role as a captain and leader of the team. “I think I like keeping it light and goofy on social media just cuz I like to make people laugh,” he said. “I don’t want to take myself too serious. Life is about having fun. Being a captain it’s about having the right attitude and the guys really help me grow. I continue to go out there and work everyday even though I’m not starting- I’m not slated to start and I could be on offense or defense. Them making me a captain makes me want to go out and have fun for them.”
The fun and the memories Thompson has had with the Utes over the past three seasons are too many to name, but one of his favorites was getting a win back home in Seattle last year against the Huskies. “Honestly? I dunno. That’s really hard,” he said. “There were a lot of big wins but probably being able to go home to Seattle last year and getting a win there.”
Even though Thompson’s role is really spread out on the team, he hopes fans will remember him as a hard worker who was willing to do whatever his team needed him to do in order to win. “I gave everything I could to this program and I appreciate every opportunity I got here,” he said.