By donning an NFL jersey this season, Brandyn Thompson made Franklin High history.
Thompson, a 2007 graduate of the school, was drafted in the seventh round earlier this year by the Washington Redskins. The Elk Grove native, who plays cornerback, was the 213th overall pick out of Boise State.
That makes Thompson the first former Wildcat to play in the NFL.
Still, his first rookie season hasn’t been easy. Thompson, a cornerback, played three games on the Redskins’ active roster before the team demoted him to the practice squad to make room for a more experienced defensive back.
But the Franklin graduate says he isn’t discouraged. Washington has plenty of depth in the secondary and Thompson believes he can learn from other cornerbacks on the team like DeAngelo Hall, a Pro Bowler last year.
And Thompson, a three-sport star at Franklin who was twice named to the All-Delta Valley Conference team, knows how to succeed on the gridiron. At Boise State, he started for a team that won 24 straight games and climbed to No. 2 in the national rankings.
Thompson even played a key role in the Broncos’ 2010 Fiesta Bowl victory, returning an interception for a 51-yard touchdown return. He was named Defensive Player of the Game—which no doubt helped his draft stock this year.
Those highlights are several reasons why Thompson, the Elk Grove Athlete of the Week, seems likely to return to the Redskins’ sidelines in the future.
Elk Grove Patch spoke by phone with the former Franklin football star earlier this week. We asked him about making an impact as a rookie, what he needs to improve, and why breakfast biscuits have become an important part of his life.
Congratulations on signing with an NFL team! What’s been the highlight of your rookie season so far?
Just being able to contribute. Getting a little action early on in the season and being able to help my team try to win.
How have you improved at your position since training camp?
I think it’s learning the defense and continuing to get better at learning the schemes and concepts that we run defensively. I think as more and more time goes by, the more understanding I’ll be able to apply on the field.
Rookie hazing, like carrying shoulder pads at practice or picking up the dinner tab, is a time-honored tradition in the NFL. What’s the craziest or funniest thing you’ve had to do this year?
[Laughs] Well, they always have me and another rookie on our team pick up [food from] Popeye’s on travel day and pick up breakfast biscuits on Friday. Not too crazy, but got to do that every week. That’s our hazing.
You were drafted in the seventh round (213th overall) earlier this year. Coming from Boise State, which doesn’t play in a BCS conference, were you ever concerned that teams might overlook you?
It was one of those things where it’s not in my control. You go out there and put your best foot forward and hopefully a team likes you. I was blessed enough to where the Redskins took a shot at me and I’m going to do my best to make them look real smart for that.
Before the draft, a scout claimed you were a “gambler” as a cornerback—often taking risks to make big plays but sometimes getting burned. Do you think that’s a fair description?
I think the biggest way to impact the game on defense is to get the ball back to the offense. So, if I have an opportunity to get my hands on the ball and get it back to the offense, I’m definitely going to take my shot at doing that. I can always get better—it’s always about getting better, especially at cornerback, being consistent, so that’s what I’m striving to do.
This season, you’ve already experienced some adversity: despite appearing in three games, you cleared waivers last week before earning a spot on the team’s practice squad. Were you surprised at how that played out?
I don’t think I was surprised. It was one of those things where it’s the business of the (NFL). They say in this league that you will get your shot, it’s just about taking advantage of your opportunity to get it. I’m going to continue to get prepared for mine, so if and when I do get it, I’ll be ready.
The Redskins have plenty of experience at cornerback. Players like DeAngelo Hall, a Pro Bowler last year, and Kevin Barnes are ahead of you on the depth chart. Is that intimidating or does it motivate you to keep fighting for playing time?
Those guys have a lot of experience in the league. There’s so many small details and tiny ins and outs of the game that you can learn from them. So, I’m doing both: I’m out here competing, but always trying to soak in as much as I can from the older guys.
Before joining the NFL, you played on a Boise State team that won 24 games in a row between 2009 and 2010. What was the most memorable part of that streak?
Man, that’s tough—a lot of good memories there. I think just my teammates in general. Especially now, coming up to the NFL, we have a great team atmosphere here, too, but college is a little different. It’s a lot of guys closer in age and it was just a real family environment.
Despite a perfect season in 2010, Boise State missed out on playing for the national championship. How big of a disappointment was that?
I think every kid wants to play in the biggest game there is. So, it was one of those things where there was nothing we could do. We won all the games on our schedule. People always questioned [the strength of] our schedule, but all we could do was play the games that were on our schedule.
It’s been several years since you graduated from Franklin High School. Do you still have any ties to Elk Grove?
I was born and raised in the Sacramento area. We moved to a couple spots, but for the most part, I lived in Elk Grove my whole life. Got a lot of family there; it’s where I’m based out of.
Ever get homesick?
I think you go through your [homesick] times, especially when you make a different move, being out here, not knowing a lot of people. But I’m 21 now, a mature man, and got to learn to live on my own.
Now that you’ve gotten a few NFL plays under your belt, what should we expect from you the rest of this season?
For me personally, like I’ve been harping on, just trying to get better each day.