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Thompson hopes to make the grade in st. Louis
This kid was wanted by several different teams and was flying under a lot of radars. One to keep an eye on!
By NOLAN HAYES : The Herald-Sun
May 8, 2005 : 11:45 pm ET
As Dominique Thompson nears graduation, the pile of homework in front of him is nowhere near finished.
Thompson has an exam today in economic analysis of law, and he takes the last test of his college career Wednesday. The subject: International trade theory.
"Two tough econ classes," said Thompson, a former Riverside High football player who will graduate from William & Mary on Sunday. "I'm trying to buckle down and get all that taken care of."
As tough as those classes are, they're nothing compared to Thompson's most recent academic endeavor. The class is Passing Game 101, and the professor -- or mad scientist, some would say -- is St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz.
Thompson, a wide receiver who signed a free-agent contract with the Rams after last month's NFL draft, got his first taste of professional football a couple of weeks ago. He went to St. Louis to meet the coaching staff and participate in a rookie minicamp with 22 other first-year players.
"I really don't think it's set in with me," Thompson said of his experience at the Edward Jones Dome. "It's still kind of unbelievable. I don't want to say it's disbelief, but it's kind of unreal to me right now still."
St. Louis' veterans did not attend the minicamp, but their presence was felt. Thompson noticed the lockers of Pro Bowl receivers Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, and it hit him that he has a chance to be one of their teammates.
But Thompson first must gain familiarity with the Rams' system. Martz's playbook, said to include hundreds of pass plays, is legendary. Shifts and presnap motion are part of nearly every play, so the simple act of lining up for a play actually isn't so simple.
"All I can say is that it's challenging," Thompson said. "Here [at William & Mary], we had five motions and shifts, but now there are so many shifts, and we just went over the basic ones. They have all these crazy, complex shifts that they do, but we haven't even got to that yet."
Thompson spent most of his time at the minicamp in the classroom. Thompson said the Rams schooled their rookies for 20 hours during the four-day camp, with the players getting only about five hours of on-field work.
But those five hours were action-packed. Martz often says he wants his players to play "fast and furious," and he introduced his newcomers to that pace immediately.
"Everything is just so much faster," Thompson said. "Everything is timing and position on the field. If you're one yard out of position or one step short or one step long on your route, the whole play is off."
Thompson didn't have to be quite as precise during his standout career at William & Mary. He set school records for catches (79) and receiving yards (1,585) during the 2004 season, posting six 100-yard games as a senior. He racked up a school-record 244 receiving yards and four touchdown receptions in a victory over Delaware on Oct. 23, one of 11 wins the Tribe posted during the season.
William & Mary, which never had won that many games in a season, advanced to the NCAA Division I-AA semifinals.
"I think it's the best thing any senior football player could have asked for -- the season that our team had this past year," said Thompson, who began his senior season by catching six passes for 83 yards and a touchdown in a 49-38 loss at North Carolina. "Nobody in our school history has won 11 games, and it was great going out a winner as a senior."
St. Louis has been one of the NFL's most successful franchises in recent years, so Thompson will have a chance to continue his winning ways if he makes the team. His agent, James Williams of Durham, had discussions with a Rams official in the week leading up to the draft, so Thompson knew St. Louis was a possible destination.
The Washington Redskins called Thompson during the fifth round in an effort to bring him in for a free-agent tryout if he didn't get drafted, but Thompson elected to sign with the Rams because of the team's early interest in him.
"Just the whole experience and even being considered as a draft prospect was unbelievable," Thompson said. "Not too many people actually make it to the NFL."
Thompson realizes he's not guaranteed to become one of those few. Undrafted free agents face long odds and usually have to make an impact on special teams to earn a roster spot. Receivers have an especially tough task with regard to making the Rams because the team already has several experienced players at that position.
But Thompson plans to head back to St. Louis with a positive attitude. He'll spend time learning the playbook in the Rams' "summer school" next month before training camp begins in July.
Until then, he'll be studying. Economics for a few more days, then football. Thompson took notes on St. Louis' playbook during the rookie minicamp, and he'll review them to make sure he's ready to go when the whistle blows.
"I don't feel like I have anything to lose, and that's the kind of attitude I'm bringing to the table," Thompson said. "I don't feel like I have to get in there and do everything right or else have my spot taken from me. I don't have anything to be taken from me. All I have is something possibly gained."
-05-09-2005 #2general counsel Guest
Re: Thompson hopes to make the grade in st. Louis
Nice story, pretty major longshot to make the squad, but you never know.