Football is an unforgiving sport. It does not care if a player is respected by teammates, coaches, fans, and community. Football does not care about future goals, passed accomplishments, records or accolades. It can take away, without discretion, everything a player puts into the game and then some. For Florida State running back Chris Thompson, that has happened. Twice.
Thompson's FSU career almost ended in 2011. A duck under a defender and a pop to the upper torso resulted in two broken vertebrae. A freak injury. Thompson had a difficult decision in front of him. Perhaps it wasn't that difficult. He decided to come back to the game that he loves. He came back for his teammates and friends. Hours of work, training, rehab, more rehab and he was back in time for the open fall practice.
Thompson looked good. He had a burst, read his blocks. But what about in a real game? How would the rehabbed running back look in his return? In a word, fearless. After being kept under wraps in the opening two games, Thompson exploded onto the national scene against Wake Forest. Thompson notched a 220 total yard performance in one half. The 'Noles had a running back. Thompson was on track to obliterate 2012 expectations including one lowly bloggers:
Thompson needs to work his way back to full speed in the first few games. No need to be a workhorse. He is one of three running backs (4 with Pryor) entering the season looking to take snaps. If Thompson can earn 600 yards rushing and 50-100 yards receiving, fans should be extremely pleased with that production. Perhaps, with some good blocking up front and some home run type plays, he can equal his 2010 campaign.
Through just 7 games, Thompson tallied 640 rushing yards. Tack onto that another 201 yards receiving. In his four complete conference games, Thompson averaged 10.3 yards a carry. Florida State had a star. The most complete Florida State running back in a decade and 'Nole fans knew they had something special. Tenacity to take on tacklers, break away speed, open field moves, and elite pass catching, blocking, all on display. Thompson was on pace to do what had not been done since Seminole great Warrick Dunn. He was poised to not just break the 1000 yard barrier but smash it wide open. Assuming an ACC championship game, Thompson was on pace to rush for 1200 yards. Add to that an additional 434 yards receiving. A complete running back indeed.
Few things can leave Florida State fans feeling somber after a win over rival Miami. In the second quarter, Thompson tipped a high throw to himself and did what he does best. Run - fast. A seemingly routine tackle left Thompson down in obvious pain. Eyes stared in disbelief, hearts sank. "Get up, please, just get up." During the broadcast, it was reported x-rays were negative. A window of hope.
Monday, head coach Jimbo Fisher announced Thompson had a torn ACL. Window shut. The comeback story of the year ended.
On and off the field Thompson is selfless. Amazing plays were not celebrated with high stepping or spiked footballs. Perhaps that's just his personality. Or perhaps, he knows it's not worth costing his team a penalty. Instead, big plays were celebrated by taking a knee or a hug with teammates. His selflessness was put on display at the end of the USF game. Thompson had a chance to bust a run to the end zone with time winding down. Instead he took a knee. It was quintessential Chris. "Do what you're coached, don't hurt the team."
It's uncertain what kind of future Thompson has in football. If the NCAA does the right thing, he will be granted a medical waiver. He should have that choice. Injuries should not take away the opportunity to play another year at the collegiate level. If he wants to rehab and prepare for a pro career, or move on to a profession outside of football, it should all be on the table. To take away from an individual that has given so much would be nothing short of criminal.
Football and the NCAA might not care what kind of person Chris Thompson is. But his team, coaches, friends, and family do. Unselfish, giving, relentless, determined, 'Nole.
Note: Thomson has made a positive impact on a lot of people. We are reaching out and will attempt to put together another story next week. Stay tuned.