By Michael Kinney
The Moore American
Kendal Thompson knew he wanted to play football at Oklahoma. Whether it was to follow in his father’s (Charles) footsteps or because he grew up around the program, being a Sooner was his dream.
That dream officially came to an end last week when Thompson signed a letter of intent to play football at Utah. He had been with Oklahoma for the past three years, but felt it was time for a new beginning.
“I just felt I needed to go and get a fresh start and have a chance to compete for a starting job at a big time conference,” Thompson said.
The Utes finished ninth in the Pac-12 in passing yards and10th in points scored last season.
Thompson, a Southmoore alum, will graduate from Oklahoma in May. He is looking start grad school in fall at the same time he plans on leading the Utes onto the field as their new starting quarterback. It’s a scenario he didn’t see a month ago.
“When I first decided to transfer and get my release from Oklahoma, it was one of those deals where me and my family sat down and looked at certain situations and Utah was actually not one of the ones we had on our list,” Thompson said. “But after it leaked out that I was going to leave, their new offensive coordinator Dave Christensen contacted me. Me and him kind of built a relationship.
“I knew about the offense he had at Missouri,” he continued. “Back when they had Brad Smith and Chase Daniels. With the new coordinator and they kind of had some struggles at quarterback, I feel like I have the chance to go in there and be the guy.”
Thompson, who has two years of eligibility left, was eying Louisville and Vanderbilt. But the quarterback situation at Utah and his grad school plans, gave the Utes the upperhand.
“That’s kind of one of things that sped this process up more than we initially thought,” Thompson said. “I was going to take all my visits during the spring and go look at some other schools. Louisville was actually where I thought I was going to go. Things got changed around and Utah came out on top. Those (grad school) application deadlines were coming up pretty quick. I kind of just wanted to pick a school so I can get all the stuff I needed to get into grad school.”
After two years of lurking on the quarterback depth chart behind Landry Jones, Thompson came into this season looking to battle for a starting spot. However, a fractured foot during the first week of practice derailed his plans of taking over as starter.
While Trevor Knight and Blake Bell took turns getting the starting nod, Thompson rehabbed and waited for his turn.
“The injury kind of set me back as far as I was in the thick of the quarterback battle,” Thompson said. “A battle that I think I had a good chance at winning. You have two guys in Blake and Trevor that gained some playing experience over me. It was just one of those deals where once you get behind the eight-ball like that, it’s kind of hard to fight back up hill. I just felt it was time to go somewhere else and start from ground zero.”
Thompson said he didn’t come to this decision easily. As someone who once said he was born with the Sooners in his blood, he gave himself every argument to stay at Oklahoma and see what happens. He appeared in just two games last season, completing 4-of-13 passes for 64 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
But the reality that OU had settled on Knight as their future was set in stone after the Sooners defeated Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
“A week after the Sugar bowl... it was kind of in that reloading stage,” Thompson said. “Football is an all year around sport. It was kind of in that stage where you have to settle down and get ready to go back to work. I kind of sat down and thought, if I’m going to be doing all this work, I want to go somewhere and put in time to be the guy. I felt I had the potential to be starting quarterback somewhere.”
Thompson said he doesn’t hold any grudges on the way things ended at OU. He didn’t say whether or not he thought he received a fair shot at starting this year, but did say he understood the coaches point of view.
“You kind of have to work week to week,” Thompson said. “You have two guys in Blake and Trevor who already had playing experience and already had continuity with the offense. Then you have a guy, as in me, that missed fall camp. SO I can see where they were coming from as far as a coaching stand point.”
When Thompson arrived at Oklahoma in 2010, he was one of four Southmoore players on the roster. With his departure, that leaves just Julian Wilson as the last remaining former SaberCat.
Before he begins his new life in Utah, Thompson admitted he his time at Oklahoma was a great learning experience.
“The main thing is I grew as a player,” Thompson said. “Getting those years under coach (Josh) Heupal. He is a great coach. I think he helped me grow tremendously as a player. Sitting those two years behind Landry Jones also helped me grow as player. He was a very intelligent player and that was a part of my game that needed to grow when I got to college.”
Michael Kinney Follow me @eyeamtruth firstname.lastname@example.org