With diploma near, Allen Thompson opts to move on

<b>ALLEN THOMPSON</b>, the talented running back from National City, Calif., who battled back from three years of injuries to play a key role for the 2004 Cougars, has decided to hang up his cleats. On track to graduate in the spring with a degree in sociology, he's passing up on a fifth year of eligibility. In addition, lineman <b>Brian Boyer</b> has opted to conclude his his career a year early.

RB Allen Thompson and OL/DL Brian Boyer have concluded their playing days at Washington State.

Said coach Bill Doba, "Allen ... has had two shoulder surgeries and felt some slippage at the end of the season. I thoroughly understand his decision and we will miss him. He is going to graduate in May and we are going to do everything we can to help him continue his education.

"Both of these young men were very mature in their decisions. They could have come out in the spring and may have been part-time players with their injuries, but they decided to retire and free up a scholarship at a time when we can go out and find somebody to fill it."

Boyer began his Cougar career as a defensive end before making the switch to offense prior to the 2004 campaign. The Lapwai, Idaho, native had been slowed by back problems the last two years, undergoing surgery and missing the entire 2003 season.

THOMPSON'S ROLE in 2005 would have been similar to the one he filled this past season as a frequent substitute for starter Jerome Harrison. The two offered the Cougars a contrasting style -- the 190-pound Harrison slashing and dashing, the 205-pound Thompson a power runner. Coach Bill Doba had said in the second half of '04 -- the one guy the Cougs needed to get the ball to more -- was Allen Thompson.

When spring ball commences in March, sophomore Kevin McCall of Carson, Calif., will move into the No. 2 spot behind Harrison. After that, it's all walk ons, meaning there will be a golden opportunity come August for running backs in the incoming class of recruits.

Ian Bell, a Cougar redshirt in 2004, also could get a look if depth is a concern. He was at defensive back this season and by all accounts looks to have a bright future there, but has serious credentials for the offensive backfield. He rushed for 3,000-plus career yards at Woodland Hills (Calif.) High and was widely rated one of the nation's top 75 prep running back prospects as a senior.

THOMPSON AVERAGED 5 yards per carry this season, churning out 271 yards and two TDs on 54 carries. His best game was against Stanford when he racked up 78 yards on just nine touches.

It also was against Stanford, in Week 5 as a true freshman in 2001, that Thompson's nightmare of injuries began. He earned his first start in that game in place of injured Dave Minnich and quickly reeled off 32 yards before going down with a high ankle sprain that shelved him for the rest of the campaign.

In 2002 he missed the first five games with a shoulder injury and then returned for that legendary overtime game against USC. On his first and only carry of the day, he reinjured the shoulder and was lost for the season.

In 2003, on Day 7 of fall camp, he re-injured the shoulder and underwent surgery that would wipeout a third consecutive season.

The injuries robbed Thompson -- and Cougar fans -- of what was forecast to be a star-studded collegiate career following a stellar three-year run at Sweetwater High where he teamed with Cougar receiver Trandon Harvey. Thompson was a two-way standout on the field, and all-academic in the classroom.

"A dream of mine is to get him healthy so he can show you what he can do," WSU offensive coordinator Mike Levenseller told an audience of crimson faithful last spring at the annual Pierce County Cougar Club coach's dinner.

The dream came true in 2004. Thompson was a key performer all season, as a punishing runner and devastating blocker.

Cougar fans held their breath when Thompson came off the field holding his shoulder during his big night against Stanford. But he returned to action in the fourth quarter, throwing a crushing block as time wound down. He would miss Oregon State the following week but returned for the final four games.

Fittingly, he was able to cap his career with an Apple Cup victory.

It wasn't immediately clear if the potential departure of Thompson and Boyer had already been factored into the 2005 recruiting needs. Thompson will remain on scholarship through spring and his graduation. Doba had said recently that the Cougs are looking to pick up two or three prep backs, with the possibility of also taking one from the junior college ranks.

EDITOR'S NOTE: AT's departure can't be announced without some editorializing. The fact is, he was one of our favorites here at Cougfan.com. The guy has courage, class and dedication -- both to his sport and in the classroom. Thanks, Allen, for all the hard yards, those nasty blocks and your refusal to let setback after setback keep you off the field.

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