Daryl Johnston, the commissioner of the USFL, made the comment to me that he believed running back Mark Thompson could be a breakout player for the league as the USFL worked toward returning to competition for the first time in more than three decades.
Not a ton of individuals find out about football than “Moose” Johnston. I texted Thompson in response to his suggestion and asked if he would talk for a story.
He responded shortly thereafter: Hey, RJ! This is huge, and I really appreciate the offer. But when the lights go out, I’m really focused on making myself the best product I can be. If you are still interested, please get in touch once the season starts. Now I’ll secure your phone number.”
On March 2, 2022, that was.
In many regards, Thompson was the sort of player the USFL, as a spring association planned around the NFL’s standard season, was made to exhibit. He had been an outstanding high school player in the Philadelphia area and a junior college All-American. However, at Florida, where self-inflicted issues hampered an otherwise promising talent, he had only shown glimpses of his athletic brilliance a few times.
After spending two years at Florida and participating in teams and training camps for the Raiders, Ravens, Lions, and Panthers, he possessed sufficient talent to warrant signing in 2018.
However, the effects of the pandemic brought an end to his football career just as he was beginning to establish himself in the NFL. Johnston, a former Dallas Cowboys fullback who won the Super Bowl, was impressed by what he saw on camera from Thompson when he helped locate, scout, and sign more than 400 players in 2022.
Thompson was “a running back who sort of lost all sense of direction in the mix a tad with Coronavirus,” Johnston told me. And even though he had a pulled hamstring, when he did get a chance to attend a [NFL training camp], he was one of the running backs I looked at and thought, “OK, why is this guy not in the NFL?”
There were additionally some off-field issues. Johnston and the USFL, on the other hand, are aware that there are football players who are deserving of second chances to demonstrate their maturity, civic responsibility, and talent.
In fact, the USFL took a chance on KaVontae Turpin, the 2022 USFL MVP. The Cowboys invited Turpin to training camp seven months after the New Jersey Generals signed him for the first time. The Cowboys decided to add him to their 53-man roster because of his ability to return kicks and punts. He had been named a Pro Bowler and an NFL All-Pro by his peers by the end of the 2022 season.
Johnston referred to Turpin’s story as “mind boggling.”
“You know, that is the thing the snare is here in this association,” Johnston said. ” Providing these young men with a second chance. Occasionally, it takes a different route back to the NFL. Simply altering the narrative that is being told about you can sometimes suffice. Sometimes all you do is show off your skills.
Thompson, presently 28, was kept down by wounds in 2022, however when he is sound he is the USFL’s nearest correlation with Derrick Henry. At 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds, Thompson frequently runs by and over defenders, as one Birmingham Stallion did last week during the Gamblers’ 27-20 victory at Protective Stadium.
With eight rushing touchdowns already scored, Thompson is tied for first place in the league. Ruling Hostile Player of the Year Darius Victor scrambled for nine TDs in all of 2022.
The Card sharks, who are riding a three-game series of wins, are 3-0 this season when Thompson plays, 0-2 when he doesn’t.
Thompson is likely to play a significant role in Sunday’s matchup at Simmons Liberty Bank Stadium (4 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app) against the Generals, who won the North Division in 2022. In any case, he’s requiring the days, really to play genius football, and hoping to assemble a total season.
I requested a second meeting with Thompson on May 16, 2023.
“I feel like last year, there was a great deal of promotion going into the season,” he said. ” Furthermore, those initial not many games, I was most certainly doing how I expected to treat exhibit my ability, yet I didn’t have areas of strength for a. Furthermore, by and large, the group didn’t get along admirably. And nobody will be given a look if the team does poorly. We will all be scrutinized if we perform well together. Therefore, I believe I simply need to continue playing the way I am. I must perform the smallest tasks correctly.”
He is. He’s playing with anger on the field, staying engaged, humble and group arranged on it. He is demonstrating that he is the individual Johnston personally sought out in this manner.
Johnston told me, “I reached out to him and spoke directly with him.” This is someone who’s gained from his slip-ups, knows that he’s botched an open door and realizes that the clock is running on him. I’m looking forward to seeing what Mark Thompson does with this opportunity because I believe he is one of those people who is aware that he only has so much time left. Additionally, he must have a breakout season in the USFL in order to have that chance to advance to the NFL. And he is completely capable of doing that when you see him on film.”
The USFL is not simply a league for spring football. Thompson is walking the return route.