At some point, every sports fan has some form of the same dream. Play quarterback in the NFL. Roam centerfield in the Majors. Splash 3-pointers in the NBA. Whack forehands at Wimbledon.
Along the way, most of us realize we peaked as kids. There's no hope of climbing that mountain or ever coming close, though on certain days and for fleeting moments... Nah, not happening.
That comprehension often comes early in life. For true romantics or delusional souls, perhaps a decade or two later.
For others, the dream turns into reality. Whether they stormed the courts as prodigies or developed their craft over time, a moment occurred when thoughts shifted. When they recognized they might be different. This series of interviews with local professional athletes focus on that moment.
Next up, Redskins running back Chris Thompson
I think for me it truly started in high school. As a kid, I was always faster than everybody. When I played Little League ball that was no problem for me. I was more nervous about getting tackled. I didn’t want to play.
I had one Little League season -- I think I was in fifth grade I believe -- where I was tackled one time the whole season. That was in the championship game. Other than that, every time I touched [the ball] it was a touchdown.
When I got in high school, I was on varsity since my freshman year. I started at running back my sophomore year, playing against older guys, against teams that were bigger and better than us. I was able to perform well. I was like, alright I can probably make something out of this. That’s when I really got a good feeling about [my ability].
As far as making it to the NFL, honestly, it didn’t hit me until my sophomore year [at Florida State].
We got a new running back coach, Eddie Gran. He just started talking to me, teaching me about what I needed to be good at to make it to the league and be able to play for a long time because he helped produce a lot of running backs that made it (Deuce McAllister, Ronnie Brown, etc).
Just being around him and learning from him really helped me and gave me the confidence that I could make it to the NFL and be a very good player.
Then you reach the NFL. At what point did you think you got this?
That was really the toughest challenge, realizing (I could play in the NFL). It didn’t really hit me until my fourth year.
My rookie year it didn’t really work out too well (Lost role as the primary kick returner after four games before suffering a torn left labrum).
(Released and then signed to) the practice squad my second year so I was doubting everything at that point. Just being cut made me doubt my ability. Really one of the lowest parts of my entire football career.
My third year I knew it was my job because Coach (Jay) Gruden told me that. I could do my job, but excelling and going beyond expectations was really around my fourth year when it hit me. I finished that season out healthy. My first full season. (Thompson played all 16 games for the only time in his career to date, finishing with 49 receptions and 705 yards from scrimmage.)
After that, I was able to go into the offseason feeling really healthy for the first time. Feeling like myself once again like the senior year of college version of myself. As you could see last year (2017), I had a wonderful year.
Any specific moment in the NFL that had you thinking, I got this?
We were playing against the Eagles Week 16 in my third year to win the division. I think the first play I came in was in the red zone and I ended up scoring a touchdown on “choice” route against Kiko Alonso, who is a linebacker I have a lot of respect for. That really gave me some confidence.
I had a few more plays where I was just running routes, kind of getting open during that game and a few more games. I was OK, if I can be consistent, keep catching the ball and keep getting open, I could really be great at this. Then the game started slowing down for me in my fourth year. Then I got more comfortable. I got way more patient in my routes. It was like, dang, dude, with your footwork and acceleration, you can really get open against these guys and make some plays.
The transcript was edited for length and clarity.
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