When you start lining up guys to step off of the bus first, JUCO transfer Mark Thompson is definitely at the top of the list for the Florida Gators. He has been on campus just over two months and before he even ran a single drill he caught the eye of his teammates.
“This is a big dude. He’s supposed to play another position or something.” Sophomore running back Jordan Scarlett said.
Scarlett wasn’t the only one to take notice of the 6’2 240 pound newcomer.. Fellow running back Mark Herndon expressed the same sentiments. “When the dude came in he was like 240. And I was like, ‘oh wow’,” he said.
That is the typical response from most, but it’s no surprise all eyes have been on Thompson. He arrived on campus as the number one JUCO running back, but the transition has come with some ground to make up, especially adjusting to what it takes to earn playing time in the SEC.
“Just sprinting everywhere. There’s no time off,” Thompson said of the biggest adjustment he’s made in practice. “It’s the SEC and primarily University of Florida football is everything. They don’t want anyone slacking off.”
“That’s a big thing in JC. Guys tend to slack off, but I’m easily getting out of that funk and getting up with the tempo of everyone else.” Thompson added.
Florida is depending on Thompson to be a major piece to another SEC East run. Getting him up to speed and building depth at the running back position is vital to accomplishing that goal. He is definitely not in Kansas anymore, and Thompson has noticed the more than a small step up in competition.
“It’s a huge jump, a huge jump,” he said. “My teammates are very much making it easy for me. They’re not letting me slack or take any time.”
Life in the SEC can be a shell-shock for guys just coming in, it may not have been a surprise to Thompson, but it was certainly more difficult than expected.
“It’s been a little more difficult than I thought it would be.” Thompson said about playing with SEC caliber players. “The first few days, it was different. I had to adjust to everything, but I’m up to speed now.”
The honeymoon did not last long. Not only does he have to adjust to the tempo of practice and quality of defenses he will face. His teammates have not been quiet about helping his adjustment to life in the SEC.
“JD’s [Jarrad Davis] definitely making sure I know he’s on the field, so is Daniel McMillian. Really, it’s the whole defense actually.”
The defense is certainly trying to welcome him to the SEC, but Thompson assured us that he has been introducing himself to teammates as well.
“I’ve had some ‘Welcome to the SEC’ moments,” Thompson admitted. “But I’ve also had some ‘I’m here in the SEC’ moments. It’s the best of both worlds.”
Thompson is one large specimen and will call down thunder on plenty of opponents this year. Though it is easy to put Thompson in a box, he wants to prove he is more than a 240-pound bulldozer.
“My running style is versatile” Thompson expressed. “Again 240, the size I am, I can catch the ball out of the backfield. I’m a little shifty.”
Thompson is not avoiding his obvious size advantage, but believes he can contribute more than one way. With Jordan Cronkrite having a good spring and Jordan Scarlett coming off of an injury, but still competing for carries. The opportunity to be ‘The Man’ won’t be easy.
“I’ve got some stiff competition. All these guys have been here, but I’m catching up [to] speed and I’ll be on field in no time.” Thompson added
Mark Thompson is still getting caught up with the speed of game and is continuing to learn the offense. There are still a few wrinkles to iron out but Thompson wants the first opportunity to make the most of his opportunities.
“I would definitely like to get the ball first game, every game. You have to take advantage of every opportunity you get. Every play could be your last; every game could be your last. You never know what’s going to happen. Every opportunity you have to make the most of it.”
The opportunity is there for Thompson to make a difference in the Florida running game. A lot of comparisons have been thrown out about his size, but Thompson is definitely his own man. Many are expecting him to be the wrecking ball the Gators need to push through the SEC and while he may do just that, Thompson is looking to perform beyond what his physical stature presents.
“I’m out there to do everything.” Thompson said.