Thompson talks about stellar Blue-White game
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer
As a senior at Warwick High School, Deron Thompson didn’t let opportunity pass him by.
When quarterback Tyler Farnan suffered a season-ending injury in the first game of the 2010 season, Thompson got extra carries and responded by becoming the second Lancaster-Lebanon League player ever to rush for 2,000 yards in a single regular season.
Last Saturday at Penn State’s Blue-White game, opportunity knocked one more time.
Again, Thompson was ready.
With Penn State starting tailback Zach Zwinak out for most of the game after sustaining an early hand injury and junior tailback Bill Belton not playing due to a toe injury, Thompson, a redshirt sophomore running back for the Lions, responded by leading the ground attack with 97 yards on 12 carries (8.1 ypc).
"It’s a scrimmage, it’s a spring game and we were missing a couple of good tailbacks ahead of me," Thompson said. "But of course, every opportunity you get, you want to make the most of it. So I just wanted to go out and show what I could do … It was a good experience. It was fun to get out there in Beaver Stadium and have a good spring game."
The Blue-White game is a Penn State scrimmage culminating the end of spring practices for the Nittany Lions. Thompson, a walk-on running back, took advantage of the game to also haul in three aerials and deliver the longest play from scrimmage with a 41-yard carry.
"I think it was a call up the middle and I just kinda read the blocks and bounced it outside," Thompson said of his long run. "There was a lot of open field and I just kept going off to the right. It was exciting."
That wasn’t the first time that Thompson got onto the field for the Lions. Last fall, he earned a varsity letter while playing special teams at Penn State, including a lot of action with the punt return unit.
When PSU hit the road for games against Virginia and Big Ten Conference foes Illinois, Iowa, Purdue and Nebraska, he traveled with the team.
"I was just trying to help us out and help us get some wins," Thompson said. "It was real exciting just being a part of the team."
Last Saturday might have felt a little bit like their trips to Lincoln, Neb. and West Lafayette, Ind. last November, with snow touching down in State College at times between periods of sunshine with an estimated 28,000 fans in the Beaver Stadium crowd.
Thompson certainly brought those fans to their feet when he broke off his 41-yard run in the White (offense) team’s 67-47 loss to the Blue (defense) squad.
Asked if that was his biggest career highlight playing in Beaver Stadium so far, he said, "I don’t know … being in front of 110,000 just being on special teams is pretty exciting too. But actually getting the ball and playing running back, that was a lot of fun too, even though it was a spring game."
Redshirt freshman Akeel Lynch, a Toronto native, got his share of touches also. The 6-0, 214-pound running back, who gained 83 yards and scored a touchdown on Saturday, is probably ahead of Thompson as well, in addition to Zwinak and Belton.
But the former Warriors’ star planned to meet this week with Nittany Lions’ head coach Bill O’Brien and running backs coach Charles London about his role this coming fall.
"(Coach O’Brien) lets you know straight up, 100 percent," Thompson remarked. "He doesn’t sugar coat anything at all. I really like that about him, and coach London, the same way. They’ll tell you your role, they’ll tell you what they want from you, and I mean, it’s your job to go out there and do it."
Thompson’s goal when the Lions kick off the 2013 season against Syracuse at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford on Aug. 31 is to help the team any way he can.
In the meantime, he will continue working hard to improve his speed, strength and quickness.
"There’s always room for improvement … you can never be satisfied," he said. "So I’m always working toward all of those and just trying to be more of a contributor to the team."
At 5-foot-10, 194 pounds, Thompson isn’t the biggest player on the team. As a walk-on competing with scholarship players, he’s likely had a bit of an uphill climb. But Thompson is intent to keep establishing himself.
"Definitely, coming in as a walk-on, you always have to prove yourself," he said. "All these other guys were more highly recruited and it’s difficult to kinda show your stuff because the coaches spent more time and invested more in them. But you always want to go out there and try your hardest every play. So yeah, that’s definitely motivation."
After all, the next opportunity might be just one play away. More THOMPSON, page A18