Kevin Thomson had other opportunities.
According to Taylor Barton — a UW quarterback in 2001 and 2002 who since founded the Alliance QB Academy and has worked with Thomson for nearly 10 years — the former Sacramento State QB had an offer from a Power Five program “where day one walking in he was taking reps with the ones.”
Instead, Thomson — an Auburn native and Riverside High alum — announced a graduate transfer to Washington on Wednesday.
And don’t get it twisted: an opportunity is all this is.
“It was, ‘You’re going to have an equal opportunity to compete for the starting job,’ ” Barton said of UW’s pitch. “I love the fact that coach (Jimmy) Lake and his staff didn’t guarantee a job. That would not be fair to the guys there. That would be a bad look. But for Kevin, it tells you how much he wants to play for UW. Here’s a kid that grew up in the state, watched them growing up and now has an opportunity. He proved he can be a big-time player at a Division I level like the FCS and the Big Sky. But obviously he wants to prove he can do it at the FBS level.
“So the chance to do those two things — play for the hometown school at the highest level, and have a really legitimate chance to compete for the starting job — I just think that was too good for him to pass up. I think he could have taken an easier route, but he didn’t. That should make Husky fans very excited, that you have a guy that’s willing to come in and pass up other opportunities to take this because he wants it that much and he believes in himself that much.”
Thomson has every reason to believe. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound quarterback was named Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year and an FCS All-American following the 2019 season. He tied for third in voting for the Walter Payton Award, which honors the top offensive player in the FCS. He threw for 3,216 yards with 27 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 12 games last fall, while rushing for 619 yards and a team-best 12 rushing touchdowns.
Of course, none of that guarantees he’ll start inside Husky Stadium. But either way, he might be able to help Washington win.
“To me, it’s kind of the best of both worlds,” said Barton, who backed up Cody Pickett after transferring to UW from City College of San Francisco in 2001. “If he ends up being the starter, you’re glad you brought him in and you have a lot of possibilities you can use with your offense now because you can get in designed QB runs and the defense now has to account for your QB, and that changes things.
“But even if he doesn’t end up being the starter, I could see him being a guy like Taysom Hill with the New Orleans Saints where he has a couple packages every game that now you could use. That forces a defense in limited preparation time each week to now have to use some of that to prepare for someone like him.”
For Thomson, preparation has never been a problem. Barton praised his pupil’s attention to detail, as well as his perseverance. He originally signed with UNLV in 2014, then underwent Tommy John surgery a year later. He rehabbed for nearly two years, transferred to Sacramento State, earned the starting job and made the most of his opportunity.
Now, his unique path to the Pac-12 might soon pay off.
“I don’t think he’s had the same offensive coordinator for two consecutive years in his entire college career,” Barton said. “As much as that is frustrating at the time, now fast-forward to this situation and it’s advantageous, because here’s a kid who has heard every term used. He’s been through so many different offenses and styles that he’s going to be able to adapt and learn it and understand it a lot quicker than the average kid who is going to transfer somewhere having been in the same offense for three or four years.”
And none of that means he’ll ultimately be the best option under center. Redshirt sophomore Jacob Sirmon, redshirt freshman Dylan Morris and true freshman Ethan Garbers are all former four-star prospects. They’re all gifted passers with the physical potential to win much more than a quarterback competition.
Barton should know: He worked with both Sirmon and Morris in high school as well.
“They are very different,” Barton said. “I think Dylan and Jacob have stronger arms than Kevin. I think Kevin is more athletic than those guys, so they can kind of balance each other out.
“That’s the thing: I don’t think it’s a situation where if you have three guys, you don’t have one. All three of those guys, they can all go win at this level at this school. There is no doubt in my mind. Now, who can win more, and who can look better doing it? That’s why they’re obviously going to compete against each other right now, the rest of the summer and then fall camp.”
But, depending on who starts, Washington — and first-year offensive coordinator John Donovan — might have to win in different ways.
“Dylan (Morris) has one of the strongest arms I’ve ever been around,” Barton said, comparing the quarterbacks. “He has a pure rocket and such a quick release — a really, really quick release. Jacob (Sirmon) is the guy that you see coming off the bus and you point to him first. He’s the guy that passes the eye test and is capable of making every throw and stretching a defense downfield that I don’t think Washington necessarily had with Keith Price or Jake Browning.
“For Jacob and Dylan, arm strength is a big thing. But the speed at this level is so fast. Can you anticipate windows and throw to guys before they’re open? Can you make the right read? Can you get into the right checks? Can you handle adversity? Those are the kind of things where those guys are untested. A kid like Kevin (Thomson) brings that to the table. You can turn on the film and go see him in the Big Sky against really good teams and doing it against Power Five schools.”
Thomson could compile a lot more film against Power Five opponents this fall.
But first, he needs to take advantage of another opportunity.
“Ultimately, he’s at the destination he wanted,” Barton said. “He grew up wanting to play quarterback at the University of Washington, and he’s got a chance now. He’s done the work to get to this point, but now he’s got to continue doing the work to ultimately get the ending to the story that he’s always dreamed of.”