Jayme Thompson was a star player at Central Catholic, where he helped the Irish to the 2012 state championship. He will be a senior at Indiana this season. THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
COLUMBUS – To this point, Jayme Thompson’s college career has been unforgiving.
Almost five years removed from helping Central Catholic to a state championship, Thompson’s time in college has been full of interruptions. Now a redshirt senior at Indiana, Thompson still remains hopeful that 2017 — at long last — will be his opportunity to contribute at the Division I level.
Fittingly, the Toledo-born Thompson’s first game as a senior comes against Ohio State, his former team.
Since his first signing day in 2013, nothing has come easily for Thompson. But as he approaches his final year in college, Thompson said he thinks all the setbacks have made him a stronger person.
“When I have a job,” Thompson said, “I don’t think there are too many things that can faze me.”
Thompson was part of the Buckeyes’ 2013 recruiting class that already is among the best by any school. He signed alongside Ezekiel Elliott, Joey Bosa, Eli Apple, Gareon Conley, J.T. Barrett, Vonn Bell, Tyquan Lewis, and Billy Price, among others.
However, Thompson’s time at OSU started inauspiciously and ended quickly. In his second practice in full pads, he suffered an ankle injury that required surgery.
As a new player buried on the depth chart and recovering from an injury, Thompson opted to transfer the next spring.
“I was young, and anybody that knows Ohio State, when you get an injury like that it’s hard to bounce back,” Thompson said. “You haven’t established yourself. A change of scenery was right.”
Although the Buckeyes are the Hoosiers’ opponent for Thursday’s season opener in Bloomington, the Thompsons hold no ill will toward Ohio State.
“The people at Ohio State were really good,” said his father, Deon. “That’s why you’ll never hear me say anything bad [about Ohio State]. They’re a very class act over there.”
From OSU, Thompson went the junior college route. He transferred to Iowa Western Community College with the intention of rebranding his career, and as in high school, Thompson became one of the country’s top players at his position.
Thompson was listed as the No. 2 overall junior college safety at Iowa Western by 247Sports.com, which he helped to a national championship game in his time there. The glamour-free world of junior college football was a far cry from playing at Ohio State, but Thompson said his two years there led to improvement.
“It definitely helped me mature as a player,” Thompson said. “Junior college is definitely not a walk in the park and it’s not for everybody, so maturity came with that.”
On the second try, Thompson chose Indiana against offers from Iowa State, Miami (Fla.), and a handful of Group of Five schools, including Toledo.
Yet again, another of Thompson’s debut seasons was marred by injury. Turf toe kept Thompson out of his first Indiana training camp in August, 2016, and he suffered a torn labrum later in the season. He played in just one game for the Hoosiers.
For a player who already had waited three years to see the field at the D-I level, another injury-filled season was the last thing Thompson needed.
Deon Thompson said the bad injury luck “can keep you awake at night,” but the career full of stops and starts has been a hidden blessing in preparing Thompson for life after football.
“That kid is one of the most mentally strong people, and I’m not just saying that because he’s my son,” Deon Thompson said. “When you deal with the injuries he’s had, it’s really, really frustrating. This is going to help him so much in life.”
Through the injuries, Thompson stayed on track academically and enters this season with his bachelor’s degree in hand. He said he will give the NFL a try first, but has aspirations of becoming a police officer when his playing days are finished.
The Hoosiers’ most recent depth chart lists Thompson as a co-No. 2 at one of the safety positions, and Thompson said he plays on most of Indiana’s special teams units.
As senior, Thompson said he simply wants to contribute and take one final shot at a Big Ten championship.
“That’s been my goal since I got to the Big Ten my freshman year,” Thompson said. “Now just contributing to that and actually playing a key role, there’s nothing more I can ask for.”