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When players talk about their college experience, their football glory is often equated with being a big man on campus, often the focus of the fellow students and the life of the party.
Oklahoma tackle Tyrus Thompson, a sixth-round pick of the Vikings Saturday, is far from the typical college player. He wasn’t the Big Kahuna at frat house parties. He was doing more important things – being a husband and father of two young children.
Thompson and his wife, Olivia-Elyse have a son, King, and a daughter, Aria-Elyse that occupy much of his free time away from the field. While his teammates were heading downtown, Thompson was heading home to help the missus with the dishes.
“It’s a little different, but people have said in the past that I lived the old man lifestyle beforehand anyway, so I wasn’t always out partying anyway,” Thompson said. “It definitely kept my head really leveled and kept me out of a lot of trouble, because I didn’t have the opportunity to go out and get in trouble and do dumb stuff with people. It just gave me a sense of responsibility.”
Nothing levels a young man more than having the reality check of changing diapers, which changes one’s mindset in a hurry.
“It makes you really grateful getting to play football and not having to be there when my wife is changing diapers when I’m at practice,” Thompson said.
Being a husband and father of two isn’t the only unique quality Thompson possesses. Almost from the start, Thompson’s young life has been anything but normal.
He was born in Germany and both he and his wife were born into military families and both their families spent time in Germany. Thompson’s father was a paratrooper in the U.S. Army helping tear down the Berlin Wall. His wife’s mother was an Army sniper.
Suffice it to say, there aren’t any mother-in-law jokes being told by Thompson.
“She tells me I should be scared,” Thompson said. “I don’t know yet. I’ve got to see it in person myself.”
On the field, Thompson was named first-team All-Big 12 right tackle last season, following in the footsteps of former OU left tackle and current Viking Phil Loadholt. Despite that, some had questioned his work ethic, especially in 2013, but it wasn’t Thompson’s fault. He played through an agonizing Lisfranc injury in 2013 – an injury severe enough that it required offseason surgery and the Sooners coaches didn’t want to let opponents know he was ailing.
The result was that analysts questioned his effort and his passion, something Thompson took some offense to.
“I hated hearing that my work ethic was being questioned because anyone that knows me knows that’s the last thing that sounds like me,” Thompson said. “I’ve played through an injury this season. It slowed me down and I looked a little more sluggish than I should have. The honest truth is I was a little banged up.”
As with many late-round offensive tackles, Thompson may be asked to move to guard. While nothing has been set in stone, he’s ready for the challenge.
“I’m going to be prepared to play anywhere on the line,” Thompson said. “We haven’t had that conversation yet, but I just know I have to be prepared to play anywhere on the line and be ready to play all four positions outside of center. I just played tackle at OU, but I can play guard. I know I can.”
As the rest of the Vikings rookie class comes to Minnesota, they share a goal of being NFL players, but it will mean more to Thompson. He isn’t coming alone. He’ll have a wife and two little ones in tow. Later this month, Thompson and his wife will celebrate their third anniversary and there would be no better anniversary present than knowing he has a chance to live out his NFL dream.
“It means the world to me,” Thompson said. “It gives me the chance to provide for my family and play the game I love so much. It just two birds with one stone and I’m really grateful for the opportunity.”