Thompson makes a strong difference on the line for Colonels

jtWINCHESTER — In the abbreviated COVID football season in the spring of 2021, the James Wood football team put two freshman on the varsity roster at the season’s outset.
One of them, Zach Smith, has demonstrated a penchant for taking people carrying footballs to the ground as a linebacker. And the other has shown he knows how to clear holes and protect the people carrying those footballs with the best of them over the years.
“He’s a beast,” said Smith of 5-foot-11, 265-pound senior Jack Thompson, an All-Class 4 Northwestern District Second Team center last year. “He’s a bull. Very strong. Fast. High intensity. He wants to put people into the ground. He’s a person you can count on.”
A three-year starter, Thompson will be a key leader for a James Wood offensive line that is looking to improve on last year’s totals. The Colonels ranked fourth in the area in yards per game (273.4) and averaged 17 points per game, more than a touchdown fewer per game than the other four teams that will make up this year’s Class 4 Northwestern District.
Thompson has been playing football since seventh grade. He started off as a tackle in middle school and transitioned to a center/guard at the high school level. Thompson loves the challenge of playing on the offensive line.
“You’re constantly being hit and you’re trying to move people that don’t want to be moved,” Thompson said.
One of the things that has helped Thompson — who is also an interior defensive lineman who had 10 tackles last year — dictate the action up front is his wrestling experience. He’s been wrestling for the Colonels in the 285-pound heavyweight class since he was a freshman. He missed his junior season due to a dislocated elbow suffered in early December, but he qualified for the state tournament as a sophomore.
“It helps you with your conditioning,” Thompson said. “It teaches you things like keeping a wide base, don’t cross your feet.”
Thompson was 5-10 and 250 pounds when he began playing for the Colonels in the spring of 2021. Though the two-game season wasn’t ideal, the results were — James Wood swept Sherando and Millbrook for the first time since 2008.
“There were a lot of good players on that team,” Thompson said. “It was fun to see seniors who were just pumped and ready to play.”
Thompson served as a backup guard that year, then became a starting right guard as a sophomore. Thompson took over as the starting center as a junior.
Todd Wilson was James Wood’s offensive line coach the previous four years before assuming head coaching duties this year. He was immediately impressed with Thompson in that COVID season because of his physical strength when taking on older players, and he’s enjoyed watching him develop as a person.
“Jack’s very nice and very humble, and he’s grown into a vocal leader,” Wilson said. “That’s probably been the biggest growth I’ve seen. He’s always been a hard worker. He’s always been a great kid. But as growth from his freshman year to now, now he’s taken more of that leadership role and speaks up, and lets people know when they’re stepping out of line and need to get back in the group.”
Though it was Thompson’s work on offense that earned him All-District recognition, he does love defense. He was part of a rotation up as a sophomore and junior.
“It’s a lot simpler,” Thompson said. “You don’t have to think as much. You just attack. You’re just playing football.”
Wilson expects Thompson to make a bigger impact on defense this season simply because he should be on the field more on that side of the ball this year, even if he doesn’t start.
“His ability has always been there on defense,” Wilson said. “We just had a lot of need to play him on the offensive side, and there hasn’t been a ton of opportunities for him to play defense.”
Thompson wasn’t able to do as much work as he would have liked with the football team this past offseason because of his elbow injury. Thompson said he couldn’t lift normally with upper body until March, and he still doesn’t have as much range of motion as he’d like in his one arm.
Thompson was able to continue building up his lower body while rehabbing his elbow. In May, he set the school’s squat record of 510 pounds.
“I think the weight room is very important,” Thompson said. “There are certain aspects of the weight room that pertain to the football field, especially the bench press with the close grips.”
Whether he’s rehabbing, in the weight room or at practice, Wilson knows Thompson is going to put the time in to get better, no matter how busy his schedule is.
“[In the offseason], he was working at Target in the afternoons and evenings,” Wilson said. “When he couldn’t make it to our team workouts, he was coming in the mornings to work with our coaching staff in open gym. [Players] would be like, ‘How is Jack perfect attendance?’, and we’d say, ‘It’s because when you’re sleeping in, Jack’s in the weight room.’ Just a worker. That’s what helps him.”
At the first day of practice, Wilson emphasized that he wants the Colonels to have fun as they work to improve, and that’s what Thompson desires to see for his team.
“As a team, I want us to be able to enjoy the season and win as many games as possible,” Thompson said. “We just want to have that grind, keep working, and have a good time. That’s what’s important.”
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