"Not one single thing," Georgia
assistant Jon Fabris
not many players who can say that."
, the man who will benefit most from Will Thompson
from a devastating ankle injury, says, "I've never met a guy as tough as
But Thompson's impressive streak has nothing to do with pain
tolerance, he says. It has more to do with a wandering soul. For the
2000 graduate of Northside High School, Georgia's training room might as
well have a warden.
"I've been in the training room before, and I don't like
said. "It's the most boring, dreadful place I've ever been."
Thompson spent way too much time in it last year while he recuperated
from a dislocated ankle. Now that he's back on the field for the
Bulldogs, he has no plans to return. In motion is how Will Thompson is
"If you know William very well," said Northside High School
Nix, "you know he is running around all the time."
Nix is responsible for getting Thompson into football. He spotted the
tall, "stringy" ninth-grader on the first day of school in the
lunch room. When he broached the subject of trying out for the football
team, Nix discovered he was talking to a blank slate.
Not only did Thompson know nothing about playing the game, he knew
nothing about the game at all, Nix said.
"He didn't know the difference between the Georgia Bulldogs and the
," Nix said. "He never sat around long enough to
watch it. If he wasn't playing it, he didn't sit down to watch it."
"I'm not a fan of any sports," Thompson said. "I just
Even after three years of playing the game at Northside, he hadn't
developed a sense of it beyond himself and his team. In the spring
before his senior year, Nix printed out a list of all the defensive ends
who had just been taken in the NFL Draft, hoping to motivate Thompson.
His time was wasted.
"I asked him if he knew how many defensive ends were drafted,"
said. "He just looked at me, so I repeated it. He didn't even know what
the NFL Draft was."
Thompson's non-stop motion is one of the things that endears him to
Fabris, the Bulldogs' defensive ends coach. Fabris is the most gruff of
the team's assistant coaches, but he embraces the players who impress
him, and Thompson has done that in every way.
It started as soon as Thompson arrived in Athens and how he never quit
in practice despite weighing just 215 pounds and getting "whipped"
day, as Fabris described it. And it has continued to this spring and
fall with Thompson refusing to miss a practice despite recovering from
"He could have had a day off here or there, but he doesn't do
Fabris said. "There are a lot of players who wouldn't have done that.
They would have milked it, but that's not his style.
Fabris is also taken by Thompson's kindness. While the coach's wife
was pregnant earlier this year, Thompson asked about her every week,
"He's very thoughtful," Fabris said. "Most players don't
give a rat's
behind about a coach."
"You can't even start to have enough adjectives to describe
said. "He's just a super young man. He was never a problem. I don't ever
remember anything other than quality things that teachers and people in
the community had to say about him."
On the field, Thompson has come a long way, developing from a kid who
didn't play football because he "wasn't a very physical guy," to an
instigator of Pollack proportions who got into two ferocious fights with
offensive lineman Daniel Inman
during the spring game.
"He's generally trying to stir something up," Fabris said.
Thompson wasn't one of the Bulldogs' most high-profile recruits when
he came out of Northside, mainly because he weighed just north of 200
pounds. He redshirted his first season and then had a quiet freshman
year, making six tackles. The breakout came in his sophomore season,
when he had 59 tackles and six sacks. He had five tackles and two sacks
against Florida State
in the Sugar Bowl and "probably should have been
the MVP," Fabris said.
He was slated to start in 2003 and was named preseason All-SEC second
team by one magazine, but he dislocated his ankle before the first game.
The year off was torture. He could barely sit still long enough to
watch his team on television when the Bulldogs were on the road. When he
did watch the games, nobody wanted to be around him.
"He watched a few of them here at home," said his mother,
Simmons, who was transferred from San Antonio to Robins Air Force Base
in 1991. "It wasn't fun watching the games with him. He was so serious
about it. It was like, 'OK, we'll go in the other room and watch the
Not being on the field has always bothered Thompson.
"He'd be on the kickoff team (in high school)," Nix said.
"We might be
ahead of somebody a little bit and want to sub in some of our younger
guys, and William would get mad at me for taking him off the kickoff
team because he wanted to cover kicks."
When Thompson came back for spring practice this year, the effects of
his injury were still noticeable.
"You could tell it was bothering him in the spring," said
on-field skirmishes with Thompson are no indication of his feelings
about his teammate. "I'm just happy to be associated with a guy like
that. You know that he's going to go flat out on every play so you know
you have to. I think he's made me better."
Thompson is 100 percent healthy this fall, he said, and his teammates
and coaches agree. Still, there's the question of how he'll play after a
"You hope it would be something like you saw at the end of the 2002
season," Fabris said. "Of course, that was a long time ago. Until you
see it for real, you can't say he's the same guy."
If Thompson does return to that form, the 6-foot-3, 254-pound senior,
will provide a pass-rushing threat Georgia didn't have last year and
take pressure off Pollack on the other side.
"I don't care about on the field," Pollack said. "I
love having him
back (for other reasons). It's his spirit. He makes me a better person."
Thompson's goal is modest. In fact, he's already achieved it. He's
back in motion.
"I just want to get back out their playing," he said.
"That's all I
can ask for, anything else is extra."
ATHENS -- Discounting the lost season of 2003, Will Thompson has never missed a practice at the University of Georgia, never missed a training run or workout or a meeting.