The way Kendal Thompson sees it, he's been preparing for this month his whole life.
So what's there to be nervous about?
“Right from the start, I was being groomed for this,” said the second-generation quarterback. “I was around the game from the beginning because of my dad. I didn't really have the normal childhood being Charles Thompson's son. But everything I went through got me ready for this.
“This is something I expected to do.”
“This” is something the majority of high school football players only dream about. And, it's actually more than one thing. It began last Saturday and will culminate on Jan. 18.
Tonight, Thompson will play in the Under Armour All-American football game at 6 p.m. (nationally televised by ESPN) in St. Petersburg, Fla. Then, less than two weeks after returning home, Thompson will begin classes at OU and start working toward the Sooners' spring practice.
“That's very exciting,” said Thompson, whose father was a wishbone QB for the Sooners from 1986-1988. “I get a head start on my college career. I can get my body prepared. I can learn the system. I get to start competing.”
Thompson graduated early from Southmoore High School, completing his degree requirements in December. That means, aside from not missing any class this week, the 6-1, 175-pound left-hander will have a five-month jump on both his anticipated degree and his OU football life.
Of course, before that comes tonight's game featuring the nation's elite prep football players. Aside from Thompson, Millwood's Josh Turner (a Texas commit), will represent Oklahoma high schoolers. Four other OU commits (Nathan Hughes, Jordan Phillips, Brandon Williams and Danzel Williams) will play alongside Thompson on the Under Armour White Team.
“All five OU signees — we're all on the same team down here,” Thompson said. “Danzel, we went on our official trip together. And Brandon and I have been close throughout the recruiting process, and we will be roommates at OU.”
Brandon Williams, a running back from Brookshire, Texas, also graduated high school early and will begin classes at OU on Jan. 18.
Meanwhile, neither the quick start on college life nor the five days of practicing with and against some of the best high school football players in the country has fazed Thompson.
“Being here, it's a prestigious event,” he said. “We all appreciate it. But it's kind of like it's something we've been working so hard for for so long, so it's something we expected to get. We feel like we've earned it. The guys with Under Armour have been telling us all week, ‘You guys deserve this. You are here for a reason and you made that happen.'”
Thompson missed the majority of his senior season with a knee injury. However, he committed to OU early in his junior season, when he led the SaberCats to an 11-2 record and the Class 6A semifinals.
Being the son of a one-time college icon and professional football player afforded Thompson the opportunity to experience big-time player camps and prepped him for success. Of course, none of that would have mattered if he did not have the talent to back up his heritage.
“In that sense, yes, having been through a lot of major (training) and coaching has made a big difference for me,” Thompson said. “I realize I have been fortunate in a lot of ways. I know that a person who has never been to a Nike camp or the Elite 11, an experience like this (Under Armour All-American training) would be an eye-opening experience and maybe a little overwhelming.
“I look at is as an honor. But, I'm not, ‘Oh, wow!' I just look at it like I'm playing the game I always have.”
Only now, he's playing it with the most highly rated players in America. Of which he is one.
“Everyone here feels like they should be here and that they worked really hard to get here,” Thompson said. “Everything here has been very intense and focused and yet fun at the same time. You can tell that no one is overwhelmed. You can tell they know why they are here.”
Under Armour All-American football game When: 6 tonight Where: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Fla. TV: ESPN (Cox 29) Oklahoma ties The following players, who are either from Oklahoma or have signed with an Oklahoma college, will compete in tonight's Under Armour All-American football game in St. Petersburg, Fla. Kendal Thompson, QB, Southmoore High School Although his father, Charles, was a speed-demon option quarterback, left-handed Kendal is a pass-first signal caller who has lethal scrambling skills. Josh Turner, Athlete, Millwood High School With superior athleticism, the 5-11, 180-pounder could be a difference-maker at safety, cornerback, receiver, kick returner or running back next season at Texas. Best guess: Look for the Millwood star to end up as a cornerback. Nathan Hughes, DE, Klein Oak (Texas) At 6-6, 265 pounds, Hughes is college-ready and yet can still add bulk and strength. Made his name in high school for playing hard and playing hurt as much as playing well. Could contribute immediately for OU. Jordan Phillips, OL/DL, Circle (Kansas) A two-way starter in high school, Phillips was a tight end on offense and defensive tackle on defense. His pass-catching days are likely over now that he's committed to OU. Still, he could be an asset on either side of the ball as a tackle. Brandon Williams, RB, Brookshire (Texas) Williams won't have to wait until summer drills to get started on his Sooner career. Thanks to graduating high school in December, Williams will be able to go through spring drills in March with the Sooners. Danzel Williams, Athlete, James Martin High School, Arlington (Texas) Williams' athletic ability gives OU several option of where to play him. However, he was one of the best running backs in the state of Texas and figures to be given every opportunity at that position. Strong and fast. By Justin Harper