In Louisville to accept the Paul Hornung Award for most versatile college football player, Shaq Thompson was celebrating the past, but trying to focus on a future he’s still unsure of. The former Washington star is a projected first-rounder.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Somewhere between what he’s accomplished and what he will become, Shaq Thompson is floating in the middle.
Here Wednesday night to accept the Paul Hornung Award for most versatile college football player, Thompson was celebrating the past but trying to focus on a future he’s still unsure of.
The former University of Washington star, who played at linebacker, safety, running back and on special teams, is a projected first-rounder. But he was disappointed with his 4.64 40-yard-dash time at the NFL combine last week.
Shaq Thompson by the numbers
6 Touchdowns scored by Thompson last season (two rushing, three fumble returns, one interception return).
4 Fumble recoveries for Thompson last season, tied for second in the nation.
174 Rushing yards for Thompson in a game against Colorado. He also had two catches for 41 yards.
“I know I’m faster than that,” he said.
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A 4.5 is the goal when Thompson runs the 40 again at Washington’s pro day on April 2.
“He’s fast enough whether he’s a 4.6 or 4.4, trust me,” said Washington linebackers coach Bob Gregory, who was at the Hornung Award banquet alongside Thompson. “He plays football so fast. That’s him, though, that he wants to run faster. He wants to be as good as he can with everything.”
Questions have swirled over which position Thompson will play in the league, and linebacker is what he’s decided. After weighing in at 228 at the combine, Thompson said he plans to get in the 232-pound range in the next couple of months.
Thompson is currently training at the EXOS facility in San Diego, and plans to return to his hometown of Sacramento to watch the draft in May with his family.
Before his NFL career begins, however, Thompson took a night to relive his stat-stuffing year in Seattle. It helped that most of his family made the trip to Louisville to celebrate, including his mother, Patty, and three of his brothers: Le’Arthur, Ricky and Demetrius.
As he’s preparing nonstop for his future, Thompson was able to appreciate where he’s been. He hadn’t seen two of his brothers in over a year, so the Hornung Award banquet was a family reunion of sorts – and a chance to remember where he came from.
“Everything is overwhelming to him, and he’s trying to settle in little by little,” Patty Thompson said. “When you grow up in a household with just your brothers and mom and you don’t have much, to be able to know you can have things now you could never have before, it takes a toll.”
Shaq echoed the “overwhelming” assessment when describing his week – “I was nervous sometimes,” he said about the combine. “Working with all those people you don’t know. … I wasn’t in my environment, and I kind of let that get to me.”
During those days, he was sometimes awake from 5 or 6 a.m. until midnight. His body was “drained,” and he was pulled in several directions at once.
But to him, it’s for the greater good. He wants to take care of that family that traveled cross-country to watch him be recognized for how far he’s already come.
Shaq Thompson is particularly close to his mom, who continues to give him advice.
“When you go out here, it’s like a fish in a pond,” Patty Thompson said she told her son. “You’ve got to figure out, are you going to sink or swim? There are good and bad people, and you need to learn to read people.”
Said Shaq Thompson: “I had a great year, but I just try to live it day by day. I have this award on my mind now, but I won’t think about the stuff that I did when it’s time to move on. It’s time to make a new memory.”