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Utah football: QB Thompson vying for top billing — with team and family

Transfer guided from early age by famous — and once infamous — father.



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Growing pains • Moore has three high schools in 6A, Oklahoma’s highest classification. Westmoore was the traditional power, but the Thompsons calculated that just-opened Southmoore was a better platform for Kendal’s quarterback skills.

At a glance

About Kendal Thompson

Vitals » 6-foot-2, 192 pounds

Family ties » Father, Charles is a former Oklahoma quarterback. Cousin Antonio Perkins is a former Oklahoma cornerback, and cousin Jordan Thompson is a current West Virginia receiver. Is the son of Kori, who runs a home business and is the daughter of two teachers. Kori is half-Kiowa. Has two younger brothers, Casey and Cade, and Casey is a 2018 quarterback who might be further along for his age than Kendal was as a sophomore, Charles says.

Education » Was a Franklin D. Watkins Memorial Trophy winner at Southmoore High as the nation’s premier black scholar-athlete. Had a 4.3 GPA in high school. Graduated in three years from Oklahoma with a bachelor’s degree in communications. According to his U. bio, plans to pursue a postgraduate degree in educational psychology.

Attributes » Most often, when speaking about Thompson, his coaches talk about his ability to “extend plays.” A couple were careful to make the distinction though that he isn’t so much a rusher as somebody who can break free from the pocket and keep his eyes downfield to find a receiver. And while his father had exceptional breakaway speed, former Southmoore coach Chris Jensen says Kendal’s strength is that he can quickly change directions.

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Charles knew Southmoore offensive coordinator Jon Freeman, who planned to run a no-huddle spread offense that suited Kendal (and, incidentally, was inspired by current Utah offensive coordinator Dave Christensen).

Freeman gave playbooks to incoming players in advance of practice, and Kendal arrived knowing 90 percent of the offense, Freeman says.

"I never coached a smarter football player, a more focused football player, and a more mature football player ... You can’t overload him."

Physically, though, Kendal was still maturing. He sprouted from 5-foot-6 as a freshman to 6-1 as a sophomore, and growth plate issues caused hip pain.

Before the first five games, Kendal says — though Charles says he doesn’t recall it — he took cortisone shots.

Then, at 2-3, facing Edmond Santa Fe, Kendal was drilled from the blind side while delivering a touchdown pass down the right sideline.

His hip fractured. His season ended. Southmoore didn’t win again.

After the season, then-head coach Chris Jensen decided that due to matters he couldn’t (and still won’t) disclose, he had to let Jon Freeman go.


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Jensen played in high school with Charles and was an offensive lineman at Oklahoma, but Charles threatened to take Kendal to another school.

"I was highly upset about [Freeman’s departure]," Charles says. "I didn’t understand it, and more so because nobody was supplying us the reason."

Jensen says he gained immense respect for Kendal when he heard what happened after dad returned home.

"Kendal came in and said, ‘Look, Dad, you’ve taught me that through life there are going to be things that are going to be unexpected. Maybe it’s time for me to step up to be more of a leader and take a stronger role.’ " Charles recalls. " ‘I believe in myself. If you believe in me, then we’ll be fine.’ "

As a junior he threw for 2,798 yards and 29 touchdowns, garnering interest from Florida, Oregon, and, of course, Oklahoma, who didn’t flinch when a torn MCL cut short his senior season.

Off the field, he carried a 4.3 GPA and won the prestigious Franklin D. Watkins Memorial Trophy as the most outstanding black scholar-athlete in the nation.

Loaded legacy • Kendal ultimately chose the Sooners, but not before the father and son had a serious conversation and wrestled with the big, overriding question: Charles asked Kendal if he was sure he wanted to be "Charles Thompson’s kid" at Oklahoma.

"He said, ‘You know Dad, I’ve been your son my whole life. Following your footsteps has always been pressure.’ I never really understood it growing up that Kendal was facing that, but he always wanted to live up to the name."

Alas, Kendal was neither as good nor as bad as his father in Norman.

He waited his turn behind Landry Jones and entered fall camp last year expecting to compete against Blake Bell and Trevor Knight for the starting job. On the first day, however, he broke his foot.

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