University of Toledo junior receiver Cody Thompson is having a breakthrough season.
For Thompson, there is no better feeling than breaking a tackle or getting behind the defense and seeing no defender between him and the end zone.
“If you could experience it, I would tell everyone to experience it,” Thompson said.
“It’s a great feeling. Your adrenaline gets going and it’s kind of hard to explain, but once you see that end zone you want to get there at all costs.”
Thompson, a converted high school quarterback from Huron High School, has been making big plays for Toledo all season. He is fifth in the country in yards per reception at 23.44. His 120.6 receiving yards per game ranks 10th and his nine touchdowns are tied for fifth.
The receiver boasts three touchdowns of more than 60 yards and is coming off a career-best four-touchdown performance against Central Michigan. That earned him the Mid-American Conference’s West Division player of the week honors.
At 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, Thompson is a physically gifted and skilled receiver, but all the success he is having on the field his coaches attribute to his relentless work ethic.
“I think his practice habits have rolled over and transferred onto the game field,” UT receivers coach Derek Sage said.
“Cody takes a lot of pride in the way he practices. The kid comes in and he watches tape and takes notes vigorously. The little things we work on in individual drills, he tries to do everything right. If it’s not right he goes out and does it again by himself. He’s a hard-hat, lunch bucket guy.”
Thompson was a receiver his sophomore year at Huron, but played quarterback in his junior and senior seasons. His only offer coming out of high school was from Toledo. Current UT coach Jason Candle saw something in Thompson and thought he could be a successful college receiver.
“I wanted to play receiver,” Thompson said. “I loved it. Obviously I liked playing quarterback because you have the ball in your hand every play, but I always missed being out on the perimeter and catching passes and doing all that kind of stuff.”
The transition from a small school like Huron to Toledo was a bit tough at times for Thompson, but he learned from upperclassmen.
“Coming in freshman year, it’s kind of a big change from high school,” Thompson said. “Everything comes at you so fast. Everything is just fast-paced and everybody knows what is going on because they’ve been here for four or five years. A lot of older guys that I looked up to like Dwight Macon, Justin Olack and Alonzo Russell kind of took me under their wing and kind of showed me the ropes of everything and definitely helped out with my transition.”
Also helping with the transition was the fact Thompson was on the field on special teams his true freshman season.
“I’m glad I settled in kind of quickly,” Thompson said. “I was fortunate to play a lot of special teams and a little bit on offense my freshman year, and everything has gone pretty well from there.”
Thompson said he has become a stronger, faster and smarter player in his three years at UT. He has developed physically into a prototypical receiver and has come a long way in terms of recognizing coverage on the field.
“In terms of his skill set, he’s a long kid that can run,” Sage said. “He can bend and he can run great routes. I think he has really shown a knack for getting yards after the catch. That was kind of a carried over from last year. But it’s all things that he works on. He’s got natural skills obviously. He was a great, athletic quarterback in high school and Candle obviously saw something special in him when he came to camp here. He’s got a great skill set for a wide receiver. He’s what you want in a receiver.”
In an explosive offense with playmakers all over the field this season, Thompson is excelling with his combination of size and speed. He said in this offense with quarterback Logan Woodside and receivers like Corey Jones, Jon'Vea Johnson and tight end Michael Roberts, he always has to be ready to make a play.
“I just kind of go out there and make the most of every opportunity that I have,” Thompson said. “There are some plays where you know you have a better chance of getting the ball and making a big play. But you have to be ready on every play, because you never know what’s going to happen or when you are going to break a tackle or when something is going to breakdown. So you just have to be ready for your opportunity.”
Like he learned from the upperclassmen before him, Thompson, through his attention to detail and hard-nosed approach, is providing an example for his teammates.
“Whatever the case is, whether he’s caught four balls, seven balls, or 10 balls, it doesn’t matter,” Sage said. “He just comes to work, and I think that is worth its weight in gold in terms of leadership.”
Candle said Thompson has earned everything that has come his way in his career for the Rockets, especially this season.
“I think what you are seeing on the football field is a product of a lot of hard work and a lot of effort and gritty toughness when probably people weren’t watching throughout the summer and each and every day,” Candle said. “He’s been a steady force for us and just continues to get better. It’s been really fun to watch him. You’re talking about a kid that had one scholarship offer coming out of high school and at one point in the year he was leading all of the country in yards per reception and has nine touchdowns already.”
Contact Brian Buckey at: email@example.com or 419-724-6110.
Toledo's Cody Thompson scores one of his career-high four touchdowns during Saturday’s game against Central Michigan at the Glass Bowl. BLADE/LORI KING