If anyone on the Florida State roster is allowed to be down this season, it's probably Chris Thompson. A year after coming back from two broken vertebrae that threatened to end his career, Thompson was having a career year in his senior season only to have it cut short by a torn ACL against Miami last month.
Yesterday, we had a chance to talk to Thompson for the first time since he tore up his knee.
“I was hoping it wasn’t [torn], but I did once I went down I did feel a little pop in my knee," said Thompson. "But once I went in the locker room I was kind of walking around some so I figured it wasn’t going to be as bad as it was.
"It didn’t even feel too bad on the plane ride back home but once I went to the meeting with Coach Fisher when he called me to his office, that’s when I knew it was bad. Once Coach Fisher asked me, he was like ‘what do you think your injury was?’ Right then I was like ‘I tore my ACL.’ He was like yep.”
Thompson has experience with missing the season, his broken back last year shook the Seminoles to their core and left Thompson overnight in a Winston-Salem hospital. This year, the seriousness of the injury didn't hit him as quickly.
“It was tough, at first it didn’t really set in. I was just sitting there looking at Coach Fisher," said Thompson. "I couldn’t even say anything at first, after I talked to my mom and Coach Fisher got on the phone with my mom, that’s when it really hit me and I just started crying.”
“I knew eventually I was going to have to get those tears out, because after I did, it made me feel a whole lot better about the situation. A couple other days I had where I was a little down but for the most part I know I’m going to come back, I know it’s nothing career ending. It’s nothing for me to really keep my head down about because I know without a doubt I’m going to bounce back.”
And that's why you cannot help but like Chris Thompson. After losing two of his prime years to major injuries, Thompson is as upbeat as ever. Jimbo Fisher calls Thompson what's right about college athletics. After a broken back and a torn ACL within 13 months of each other, it would be understandable if Thompson wanted to give up football for good. After all, who could blame him?
Fat chance though, he's motivated as ever.
“I think about that, but on the inside of me this is what I love to do and I’m not going to quit," said Thompson. "I saw both of these injuries that I’ve had the past couple years as, I see it as minor injuries to be honest with you. Because I know with both injuries that I’ve had that I’m going to come back and play again. I see it as a minor thing, and I also think it all happened for a reason.”
Thompson not only plans on returning, but given how strong he came back this season, he thinks his best is still ahead of him.
“I feel like [I will be better than ever]," Thompson continued. "I’m doing a lot strengthening my knees and my quads, this is an opportunity for me to get those parts of my body stronger. And with the progression I made with my back injury with the explosiveness and everything from that, I totally feel like once I go through this whole rehab process I’m going to come back stronger.”
So now the question is, where will Thompson resume his career? The logical conclusion is that Thompson is done at FSU. He would need to receive a medical exemption from the ACC in order to get another year of eligibility. Typically the ACC goes by the book and are likely to reject Thompson's plea, then it will fall to the NCAA to make a ruling.
If things play out as expected, Thompson will likely be working out for NFL teams come spring. But if he has his way, there's a chance he may be back in the Florida State backfield next season.
“I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I love being here, just playing here with these guys," said Thompson. "I think what really has me thinking that way is just the fact I want to play another full season with my guys but at the same time I don’t know. I’m not sure if I want to come back or even just try to move on right now. It’s still one of those things I’ve been talking it over with my parents trying to decide what’s the right decision, which direction I should go.”
Ultimately, it's the NCAA's decision. Thompson can only control his rehab the rest of the season.
"I’ve just got to focus on getting healthy and trying to finish up with school," said Thompson. "Because after all of that’s over in December as far as school I can think about what I want to do but right now I don’t really know which direction I want to go.”
One factor that could push Thompson towards another year at FSU– if he's given the opportunity– could be his education. Thompson is six credits from graduating this Spring and could return next year to pursue a masters degree.
“My parents always growing up just told me that education’s first," Thompson recalled. "[My mom] took me from football one time in high school because I got a “C.” So even coming back and trying to get my masters, that’s something that’s still in my mind also. And that’s another reason why I’m still kind of debating what I want to do.”