Jeff Reed: John Thompson Deserves Ovations


John Thompson deserves ovations

Jeff Reed Author PageIt happened at Wintzell’s Oyster House in downtown Mobile. At a well-attended Arkansas State University alumni function, the applause started when John Thompson entered the establishment.

It grew. And grew. And it lasted.

John Thompson, the Forrest City native who has been the Red Wolves’ defensive coordinator the past two years and the interim coach for two bowl games, seemed overwhelmed by the response. And almost emotional.

Behind him, towering Arkansas state trooper Robert Speer, an A-State football standout during the glory years of the mid-70s who now travels with Red Wolves football coach for security, smiled approvingly.

It was a lovefest that is still going on.

I knew his appeal had grown on the way back from Mobile after the GoDaddy Bowl. The woman who has been riding in the passenger seats for the past 28-plus years started asking questions about Thompson.

She did not go to the game because of the weather, but did watch it from a Mobile hotel room while trying to control a rowdy 10-year old who doesn’t have a lot of interests in sports or sitting in the cold rain at football games.

I don’t know if it was the pregame speech shown on ESPN’s broadcast of the GoDaddy Bowl, or the interview in the minutes following Ryan Carrethers’ game saving field-goal block on the final play where all credit was given to God for answering prayers. Or the fact that his man, John Thompson, knowing his future was uncertain, went all out during and in the weeks leading up to Arkansas State’s second consecutive bowl victory.

Later on, a phone call from her sister started with the conversation about the game and from the one side heard, the conversation turned to John Thompson. Having heard lots of one-sided conversations between the siblings over the years, this was a first.

That was later followed by discussion of the game and the exciting finish and how three people in her family were watching the game in three rooms and all yelling and screaming.

Thompson, a professional who grew up all around Arkansas State University but did not make it to the campus until he was in his 50s, cherished his time there. He loved being back close to his Mississippi and St. Francis county roots.

And that love has been returned.

This recent revival of A-State football, 28 victories in three seasons, three conference titles and two bowl victories, has produced a lot of pride and turned some folks into almost cult-like superheroes.

Perhaps the greatest amount of love and respect goes to Ryan Aplin, the quarterback who led the team to two straight league titles and is a popular figure whenever he appears at A-State events. Now an off-the-field assistant on Hugh Freeze’s staff at Ole Miss who works with quarterbacks, Aplin has rock-star appeal. And the fact that he stays connected – he showed up in Mobile –  to the school also plays a role.

In fact at the recent press conference introducing Blake Anderson as the new coach, one of the first questions, or perhaps requests, was to bring Aplin back.

And now we have John Thompson, who has reached the same stature. He leaves A-State with a 2-0 record as head coach, and some could argue the two biggest victories in school history.


Jeff Reed is editor of You can follow him on twitter @ASUJeffReed.

Tags: , ,