Sept. 3, 2014
COLUMBIA, S.C. – The program player profile will be featured here each Wednesday after a home game. Senior quarterback Dylan Thompson was the first profile in the 2014 game program. Here is the feature that was in the game program last Thursday for the Texas A&M game.
By Andrew Kitick – Associate Media Relations Director
Leader – Teammate – Example. Those are just a few words you can use to describe senior quarterback Dylan Thompson. Now a fifth-year senior, Thompson will go under center this evening as the starting quarterback of the Gamecock football team. Already a graduate with a degree in sport and entertainment management, Thompson has never shied away from his responsibilities as a student-athlete and has taken advantage of the opportunities he has been granted.
Thompson spoke on Media Day to many media outlets like business was usual – calm, collected and ready to go. Always the quarterback, Thompson was quick to point out he is not the only leader and has a great group of teammates that set just as strong an example as he does, both on and off the field.
“One thing I think we’ve all done a good job of this summer, all the way building up–winter, summer–is just getting different voices out there,” said Thompson. “And that’s been really good for all of us. Not just me, but everyone’s got stakes and claim in that leadership role.”
The offseason program is one of the most important programs in any major college program and Thompson and the Gamecocks are aware how crucial it has been on the way to three consecutive 11-win seasons.
“In the winter we started with a really good tone going into workouts,” said Thompson. “Some of the senior guys said look, `We get to choose how we want to be remembered.’ And that’s the best part of all this. We’re not coming into it with any egos. We’re all going to be the hardest workers. The leaders need to be the hardest workers. I think we started that all the way back in January. It’s been awesome to see those guys just put in the time and work and out here at practice.”
Work ethic has been with Thompson since he first stepped on campus in the fall of 2010. A two-sport star at Boiling Springs High School, Thompson came to the Garnet & Black eager to perform at the highest level.
For a majority of student-athletes, especially football players, it is a transition. It takes time to find the field. Talent is always there, but it has to keep up with older, more physical players who have spent, three, four, even five years building and growing both on and off the field.
Sometimes it was not easy, but Thompson has always understood and been grateful for his opportunity to suit up with the Gamecocks. As he waited for his number to be called, he kept ready, studied his playbook, worked hard in practice and showcased his ability when he received his reps.
“We’re all blessed to be student-athletes at this university, first of all,” noted Thompson. “I think that’s something you can’t bypass. Coach Tanner, great AD, Coach Spurrier, a coach that cares about you and he’s going to let you know it. And then getting down to getting to play. I’ve learned that the past few years, don’t take that for granted. It’s just a great opportunity for all of us.”
He has never taken it for granted, and that’s one of many reasons South Carolina has had its recent success. In spite of injuries, adversity, the Gamecocks have found a way to come out on top in many close contests with Thompson being a key part of the mix.
Thompson came on for an injured Connor Shaw as a sophomore in 2012 and went 2-0 as a starter with wins over East Carolina and Clemson. That first career start vs. the Pirates, he went 21-for-37 for 330 yards and three touchdowns as well as no picks on his way to Capital One Cup Impact Performer of the Week honors. He would fill in time-to-time the rest of the way until he was summoned off the bench and slid into the starter’s role one more time for an injured Shaw in the regular-season finale at Clemson. In only his second career start, Thompson was brilliant. He went 23-for-41 in the air for 310 yards and three touchdowns to lead South Carolina to a 27-17 victory against the Tigers and a fourth straight win over its instate rival. Over a month later, Thompson provided an encore performance in the clutch vs. Michigan at the Outback Bowl as he went 7-for-10 for 117 yards and two scores, including a 32-yard touchdown pass to Bruce Ellington with 11 seconds left in regulation lifting Carolina to 33-28 victory.
The script would be similar in 2013 as Thompson rallied the Gamecocks after Shaw went down in the first quarter at UCF. He went 15-for-32 for 261 yards and ran for a 2-yard touchdown to help the Gamecocks rally for a 28-25 victory. Thompson would play in 10 of 13 games last year and complete 58.4 percent of his passes (52-for-89) for 783 yards with four touchdowns.
The entire quarterbacks corps learns together and develops together. The camaraderie with the group is evident by how Thompson speaks of each his teammates. When asked how he sharp he felt throwing the ball at the start of preseason camp, he was quick to point out how well the entire group was doing and not just himself.
“All of the quarterbacks have done a good job,” said Thompson. “I think we’ve been pretty sharp. Guys know their stuff. They did a good job this offseason of studying and getting prepared.”
A combination of time in the meeting room, time on the practice field and just watching the game are all factors in the eyes of Thompson.
“Getting those reps on the practice field is a big deal. You come in here and watch tape. I don’t learn near as much as I do if I’m not writing something down. Coach Mangus does a great job [of telling guys to] take notes. That’s helped me throughout the years, being able to do that with games and practices, and it’s been helpful.”
The clock is ticking down and the team will be coming out to the booming sound of, “2001,” and Williams-Brice Stadium will shake at the sound of, “Sandstorm.” In it all will be Thompson, now the starter who has been the example, been a teammate and been a leader. The 2014 season starts today, but as Thompson notes, it’s marathon, not a sprint.
“I think right now we’re all feeling pretty good,” said Thompson. “But we’ve got a long way to go. Coach [Spurrier] does a good job of staying on us. We have a sign up in the locker room and the meeting room: “The price of victory is high but so are the rewards.” I think he does a good job of reminding us day-in and day-out that we just have to stay hungry, stay humble and just keep working.”