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Overcoming Adversity Helping Skylar Thompson Get To Next Level

  • Crissy Froyd
  • February 18, 2022
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No one thought Kansas State had a chance against No. 5-ranked Oklahoma in 2019, but the Wildcats demanded respect and shocked the nation with a 48-41 victory. Quarterback Skylar Thompson remembers that game well and how it flipped a switch for him. “We were 25-point underdogs, no chance to win on pen and paper,” Thompson recalls. “But it was one of the best games I’ve ever had from top to bottom, throwing the ball and running the ball and seeing all of my hard work pay off, and to be recognized for that a little bit gave me a sense of Oklahoma. I walked away from that thinking ‘if I can do this against this team, I can do it against anybody. It raised the level of expectation for myself and cleared the mud on being someone who can definitely play at the next level.” There were more highs than lows that season as the Wildcats won all but four of their regular-season games, losing a close one to Navy 20-17 in the Liberty Bowl during the postseason. But Thompson was in for some of the toughest times of his career in the 2020 season that followed, playing just three games as he suffered a season-ending injury to his throwing shoulder—he also dealt with some injuries in the 2021 season as well. “This is the first time in my life I’ve really had to deal with injury and they’re tough—especially when your season is ended with an injury to your throwing shoulder,” Thompson said. “There’s a lot of mental barriers I had to get through. Through all of those times, I stayed true to myself, kept believing in myself. I had to keep trusting the process. It wasn’t always pretty or perfect at all. I knew everything would take care of itself and that I just had to control what I could control.” The most unfortunate thing about injuries is that football at the college and NFL levels are very much a “what can you do for me today” thing, especially when it comes to media attention and landing reasonably in the projections. Even the best of players start to get forgotten about or fall from favor as far as attention goes when they’ve been sidelined for a while. “It does cross my mind,” Thompson said. “It puts kind of a different spin on my projection and those types of things.” But there is also something to be valued in dealing with this type of adversity and Thompson says it’s taught him a lot. “In a way, I’m grateful for those times of going through injury,” Thompson said. “ It was unfortunate, but I truly believe in all of those times I was sidelined that I was finding ways to get better. Even though I wasn’t physically on the field playing, I was still investing in my team and I learned how to be a leader without playing and sometimes that’s challenging to do. I learned how to take mental reps… I learned a lot about myself during those times and they made me stronger as a player and a person.” Thompson was able to see more action this past season than in the one previous as he battled back from injury with some minor setbacks along the way, playing a total of nine games. The Texas Bowl marked Thompson’s return after missing the last game of the season against Texas, and it couldn’t have gone much better for him as he completed 75% of his passes for 259 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions in the 42-20 win over LSU. He says it was one of the highest moments of his career and was a part of helping him fulfill his goals of getting a bowl game win as a full-time starter, leaving the program better than it was when he originally came there, and helping give the coaching staff something to hang their hat on by closing out the season in dominant fashion. “Coming back in that game, a later game, it gave me time to get my body back and get healthy,” Thompson said. “It was a great opportunity to showcase that I am 100 percent healthy and to showcase what I can do. I was very confident in our game plan, we had a new offensive coordinator that game who was my quarterbacks coach for a long time who I had a great relationship with and so I went into the game with a lot of confidence. I didn’t view it as a make-or-break game for me, it was just another game. I knew what I was capable of doing and had a great feeling that what happened was going to happen. “Sure enough it did.” With his college career in the books going out on a high note, Thompson is looking forward to what’s next and has that same mentality he came out of the Oklahoma game with seasons ago right there with him—something that shines through in talking with him on a personal level and watching how he does things on the football field. “I bring a winning attitude to an organization,” Thompson said. “I pride myself in being a great leader and impacting the people around me, making my teammates better, and helping them reach their full potential even if they may not be able to see it sometimes. Whether things are going really well or really bad, a team is going to get the same person every day and I look forward to proving that to somebody. “My best attributes are being able to make plays when things break down,” Thompson said. “Things aren’t always going to be perfect. There are going to be times when you have to escape the pocket and scramble and make a play. I feel like at every point in my career when a team has needed me to make a play in a tough situation, I’ve delivered. And I like that pressure to perform and knowing that what I do determines the outcome of the game. I don’t view that pressure in a bad way.” From a pure football perspective, Thompson is well-developed as a quarterback who can run a complex system and is used to assuming a lot of the responsibility. He says that at the Shrine Bowl, where he had to learn another offensive system, he felt there wasn’t a large transition because of how much he learned and got used to at Kansas State. “We were a pro-style system, so there was a lot that was on my plate both pre-snap and post-snap,” he said. “We did everything out of the huddle and our play calls were pretty wordy. We tagged almost everybody on what their route was. As far as the run game goes, we would do a lot of double run calls where I had some control over which run play we were going to run based off of what front we were getting. It was challenging to learn at first but when I got comfortable with it and understood it more, I loved it, getting to dictate a lot of how the game was going to go and it’s prepared me for the next level.” With all of the showcases in the books, Thompson’s next opportunity to show what he can do for an NFL team will come at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine, something he’s honored to take part in. “It’s a dream come true to be invited to the combine,” Thompson said. “Ever since I was a kid, I’ve wanted to play in the NFL and I watched the combine every year and pictured myself being one of the ones out there. And it meant a lot to me to get invited, especially with what I’ve been through these past couple of years. And just like all of the other times he’s been counted out or passed over during the last couple of seasons, he’s looking forward to getting back on the radar and is self-assured in the process. “I’m looking forward to showing my best football. We’re not a huge quarterback school and we don’t throw the ball 40 times per game so my stats sheet is not going to blow anyone out of the water by any means. But I believe in my ability and I believe that I can compete with anyone in the draft.”

Written By

Crissy Froyd