It was never Tedric Thompson’s idea to play football.
In fact, as a 7-year-old in the Los Angeles area, he wanted nothing to do with sports at all.
“I have a lot of family members that are involved in gangs and they’re in jail,” said Thompson, now a junior safety at Colorado. “My mom and my dad didn’t want that for me and my brother, so they wanted to find us a sport. They put us in football and, to be honest, I didn’t want to play football. I actually quit my first day of practice.”
Coaxed by an uncle to give it another shot, Thompson did. In his first game, he played center and cornerback and picked off a pass and returned it for a touchdown.
“That’s when I really liked playing football,” Thompson said.
CU is certainly glad he didn’t give up too easily. Thompson is now one of the most valuable players on the team and developing into one of the best safeties in the Pac-12 Conference.
Thompson brushes aside the notion that he’s among the Pac-12’s best and said he’s simply trying to be as good as he can be for CU.
A gifted athlete, Thompson said he believes he’s becoming better because of what he’s doing off the field.
“I’ve gotten better at watching film,” said Thompson, who is fourth on the team with 36 tackles. “I’m able to watch film by myself and break down tendencies and stuff. When I got here, I had no idea what I was doing and I was just out there playing.”
With the help of his coaches, Thompson said he’s now starting to see the results of his ability to break down game film.
“When I was able to call plays in practice and be able to jump routes, and when I was able to tell (defensive backs) or tell backers where they should fit and where they should be, that’s when I really started to know that me watching film is helping out,” he said.
CU head coach Mike MacIntyre has taken great pleasure in watching Thompson develop as a player, because he knows the type of work the California native is putting in each week.
“He asks me more questions than anybody, and that’s why he’s going to be successful,” MacIntyre said. “He is not afraid to go ask a question when he doesn’t know something.”
MacIntyre is perhaps more impressed with Thompson off the field. Raised mainly by his mother, Flossie, Thompson and his brother Cedric, a rookie for the Miami Dolphins, avoided trouble as they moved around LA.
“A lot of my friends were in gangs and I was around gangs a lot,” he said, “but my mom always had me doing something to pull me and my brother away from it. If my mom wasn’t there for me, I honestly feel like I wouldn’t be here right now.
“My mom knew how to discipline me, so I stopped getting in trouble at an early age.”
Thompson doesn’t get in trouble now, either, and is “doing well” academically, MacIntyre said.
When it comes to football, there may be a lot of Buffs who care just as much about this team as Thompson does, but nobody cares more.
“He plays so hard,” MacIntyre said. “He brings that energy to our football team and he’s a guy that I rely on and believe in totally.”
Thompson’s teammates rely on him quite a bit, too, and when they lost him last year, it was almost like taking away the soul of CU’s defense. Thompson suffered a concussion during an overtime loss to UCLA on Oct. 25, 2014.
It was a scary play which left Thompson lying on the ground for several minutes before he was taken off the field on a stretcher. He missed the final four games of the season.
“It was scary because I never had an injury like that before,” he said. “I still don’t remember the actual hit.”
He does believe that he got lazy late in the game and blames that for the injury. He’s stressed his conditioning ever since then to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
Today, Thompson is happy, healthy, and has no thoughts of giving up the sport he once tried to avoid.
“I love football,” he said. “I never want to stop playing football. While God blessed me to play, I’m just going to try to come out here and play to my abilities.”
Brian Howell: email@example.com, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.