Take a chance on me
Combine workout helped Division II LB gain popularityPosted: Tuesday March 11, 2003 10:07 PM
This is the first in a series as SI.com follows West Texas A&M linebacker Chaun Thompson in the weeks leading up to the 2003 NFL Draft in April.
By B. Duane Cross, SI.com
He has the size -- 6-foot-2 and 240 pounds -- and the speed -- timed at 4.53 in the 40. Now all West Texas A&M linebacker Chaun Thompson wants is the chance to play on Sundays.
With E.J. Henderson, Mario Haggan, Terry Pierce and Bradie James garnering most of the hype for inside íbackers at the NFL Scouting Combine last month, Thompson felt like a wide-eyed kid while walking among the players heíd previously only seen on TV.
Maybe now those "big-name" players will tell their grandchildren of being on the same field as Thompson.
"After doing my physical," Thompson said of his initial combine experience, "I looked down at my shorts, and thought, 'Dude, Iíve got on new NFL gear! Iíve got my name on my back!' I was really happy.
"Then I walked in and bench-pressed 225 [pounds] 29 times. I was pumped about that; others didnít get as many. Those Division I players are just like me; youíve got to hit the weight room and work hard."
Despite his impressive workout -- his 29 reps at 225 pounds was tied for most among the 12 inside linebackers who participated in the combine drill -- Thompson said he remained in awe of his surroundings.
"I was used to [being around] scouts. Some of them came to the school and Iíd built a relationship with them," he said. "But then I interviewed with Cleveland ... and I was looking at Dave Campo. I didnít know whether to answer his questions or get his autograph. Then, when I was walking down the hall, I saw Tony Dungy. I thought, 'Man, I see him on TV!'
"I was also around Mario Haggan, Boss Bailey, E.J. Henderson ... I wanted their autographs, too."
However, it didnít take long for Thompson to settle in. "At Indianapolis, I always thought everyone puts their pants on the same way. When I first got there, no one would talk to me. I was from a small school; I was linebacker No. 14, that kid from West Texas. ... By the end, players and coaches were speaking to me by name."
Thompson noted that he struck up a kinship with several of the linebackers, notably Henderson, Haggan, Bailey, Khalid Abdullah, Pisa Tinoisamoa, LaMarcus McDonald and Lawrence Flugence. "Those guys treated me as a friend, not as a competitor, although we were all there for the same reason. That meant a lot to me."
A three-year starter at the Division II school, Thompson finished with 104 tackles as a senior and played well in two all-star games.
"All I want -- all I can ask for -- is that one chance," Thompson said. "Iím maybe not the greatest, but one team is going to give me a chance. ... Iím not going to ask for $17 million after five years; Iíll take a pay cut to get a championship."
Only on about four teamsí radar screens before the combine, Thompson will see at least that many teams before next week. He has dinner with the Redskins on Wednesday night, then a meeting Thursday morning with the Packers ("Iíd love to play there," Thompson noted), then Pro Day workouts that afternoon with about 14 teams expected to attend. On Monday, the Patriots are scheduled to interview him.
Thompson said a few teams were playing "poker" with Pro Day, not tipping their hands as to whether or not they would attend. "They donít want other teams to know theyíre looking at me," he said of the teams being coy with their plans. "Doesnít matter to me; we can go deep into a pasture. Iíll work out wherever."