won't be pigeonholed. Scouts know him as one of the nation's top high school
players, a bruising 6'1", 230-pound linebacker-running back who last year
helped Saint Peter's Prep of Jersey City win its first Group 4 nonpublic state
championship since 1994. But Thompson chafes at such a narrow description.
"Sometimes people see you're a football player and think it's your only
gift," says the 16-year-old senior who has sung in the school choir, will
compete with the chess club and has starred in school plays. "Well, I won't
have that. My goal is to try everything."
So far Thompson's
ability on the football field has served him best. After he had 68 tackles and
8 1/2 sacks last season, colleges clamored for his services. "He's built
low to the ground, and he's tough to take down," says one scout of
Thompson, who can bench-press 305 pounds. "He's pure power," says Rich
Hansen, coach of No. 16 St. Peter's, which improved to 2-0 last Saturday with a
71-6 win over Memorial of West New York, N.J. Thompson has committed to play at
Boston College next year. The son of Bill, a review analyst at Federal Home
Loan Bank, and Edna, an administrator for J.P. Morgan Chase, Will chose BC
because of "its academic reputation. And it's a great football program
that's close to home." ("It didn't hurt that, like St. Peter's, it is a
Jesuit school," says Edna.)
Thompson got into
acting in the spring of eighth grade as a favor to his sister, Louisa, now a
junior at Dartmouth. "She went to a girls' high school [Holy Family, in
Bayonne], and it needed guys for parts in Once on This Island," he says.
"She said I could leave after the audition if I didn't like it. A week
later the director called to say I had one of the leads."
being onstage so much he auditioned a year later for St. Peter's production of
Damn Yankees. He landed the lead and began doing his version of two-a-days:
"I would head to Damn Yankees after classes. Then I would hop the light
rail and head to Holy Family, where I played a gay choreographer in Smile,"
he says. "How many football players would do that?" Thompson averaged
six hours a day rehearsing the two plays. His grades suffered, and his parents
and guidance counselor, Jim Dondero, stepped in. Dondero tutored him and helped
him set aside several hours a day for studies.
maintains a B average and limits himself to one or two activities at a time. He
has already been told by BC coach Tom O'Brien that he will redshirt next
season, but he hasn't decided if he'll pursue theater in college. "I'll go
easy on the extracurriculars freshman year," he says. "But after that,
who knows? The stage-and the bright lights-are always there."