Thompson Still Mining for Diamonds

Packers general manager Ted Thompson, seemingly energized after completing his 10th draft, isn't ready to retire any time soon. What keeps him going? It's the "chase" and the never-ending pursuit of a talent that no one else has found.

At age 61, Ted Thompson is having too much fun looking for diamonds to consider trading his key to his Lambeau Field office for a key to a golf cart.

Thompson, who looked sluggish while battling a cold during his news conference about a week before the draft, looked like a man who had taken a sip from the fountain of youth before Saturday's news conference. He appeared energized to continue the year-round grind that is being a professional football general manager.

Asked point-blank how many more drafts he envisioned leading, Thompson chuckled and said: "I'm just getting started. I feel pretty good. This is always a fun weekend for us in scouting because it all kind of comes together. Sometimes, you try to look away because it doesn't look as good as what you thought it was supposed to look like. Other times, it's like, ‘Hey, that's pretty good.' I think it's a cool thing to see these guys in the Packer uniform for the first time and see the enthusiasm. It'll get more interesting next week when the veterans are back."

Thompson, who just completed his 10th draft, has built a perennial contender. The Packers have qualified for the playoffs in each of the past five seasons, including a Super Bowl win in 2010 and a 15-1 campaign in 2011. With the team's sustained success, he's a two-time winner of The Sporting News' NFL Executive of the Year, an award voted on by his peers.

Given his age and accomplishments, it was fair to wonder if he was getting ready to say good-bye. He skipped the owners meetings in March due to a personal matter. Not only wasn't he at Wisconsin's pro day but, in Packer Report's daily tracking of the pro day circuit, not a single school told us of Thompson's presence. Then, twice during the draft, his introductory statement to reporters included thanking the scouts and other staff for their hard work in making it all possible.

Not so fast on throwing a retirement party.

"That wasn't a prelude to me walking out, no," Thompson said. "It was a genuine (statement of appreciation). It's just the number of hours that you put in. If I haven't thanked those guys in the past, that was my fault. Two times in front of you guys is not overdoing it, I don't think."

Thompson's contract reportedly runs through the 2016 draft. Thompson, who is the man with the plan for all things Packers, apparently doesn't have a plan in mind for himself. That's not a surprise considering how Thompson has kept such a low profile during his long tenure with the team and how his life appears to be dominated by football, football and more football.

"I don't really have one," he said. "I've never had one. I wouldn't anticipate doing anything different."

Pressed on the issue, Thompson wouldn't say with "certainty" if he intends to stay on board as general manager through the next two drafts.

"Certainty is a fairly strong word. I feel good and ready to go," Thompson said.

Thompson has won a Super Bowl and has put together a team that is built to last, with Aaron Rodgers under contract, a solid core of young players and a minimal amount of bad contracts leaving the salary cap in good condition.

So, what keeps him going?

"I think the chase," he said. "In the scouting business, it's the chase. It's hoping ... a lot of it is, you know ‘X' number of players at the University of Alabama and you have your list and you do those. But then, every once in a while, you find someone that no one's really too keen to and you're hoping to find that diamond that nobody else has found. That's hard to do, with the coverage that we have in the NFL and the scouting departments that are around the league. But I think it's the chase and it's the coming together. And, most importantly, the Sundays or Mondays or Thursdays, when you've won the game and you're in the winning locker room, that's as good as it gets."

Thompson has kept his motivation and his hunger.

And his sense of humor.

Asked to name some of those diamonds, Thompson said matter-of-factly: "I haven't found one yet."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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