There is one universal rule in every press box. Regardless of dress codes or regional etiquette, there is always one rule that supercedes all others, you will hear it announced without fail at the beginning of every sporting event in every venue across the country (and I would assume in every country, the whole world over).
There is no cheering in the press box.
On September 15th of last year though, there was cheering in the press box at Doak Campbell Stadium. It started as a small ripple, a tiny fist pump snuck beneath the table well out of sight. But by the end of the first half of last year's Wake Forest-Florida State game -- as Chris Thompson approached 200 yards -- it was undeniable. On that day, regardless of what beat you were covering, there was cheering in the press box.
To get the whole picture you have to go back two years, to 2011, when Thompson -- then a junior -- broke his back at Wake Forest.
It was a moment that many believed would end his career. Jimbo Fisher was so broken up over the injury that it was Thompson who had to console him -- and not the other way around -- when the two were at the hospital in Winston-Salem that night.
Thompson's T-5 and T-6 vertebrae had broken. He spent the night in a hospital in North Carolina as his whole team travelled home to Tallahassee without him following a 35-30 loss. His heart was heavy, his football career seemed done -- he questioned whether he even wanted to play again.
Then he found inspiration in an unexpected place. Ethan Fisher -- Jimbo's son, who suffers a rare blood disease called Fancomi Anemia -- was so concerned for Chris that he left a small toy car in Thompson's possession that evening.
"That really just picked me up more than anything," Thompson said. "It meant a lot that [Ethan's] going through what he's going through and to even just think about me like that meant a lot to me."
Over the coming months Thompson worked relentlessly to come back. He lived in the gym, learned to take care of his body all over again and began to mentor the younger running backs on the team. On the nights when he'd find himself down -- or filled with doubt -- he would roll that tiny blue car's wheels across the palm of his hand and think of Ethan.
"He's not only a great player talent-wise, but he's a glue guy in terms of work ethic and character," Jimbo Fisher said last year. "What he represents, when you think of a Florida State football player, that's what you want to represent."
Coming into last year's Wake game Thompson had only shown glimmers of what he was capable of. Up until that point he had just nine carries through the Seminoles' first two games. He was still largely an unknown quantity -- regarded by many as little more than a feel-good story.
Then he did this:
Thompson carried nine times for 197 yards and two touchdowns -- all in the first half. A season earlier Wake Forest had literally broken Thompson's back as they beat FSU 35-30. On that Saturday less than a year later -- after fighting back from his career-threatening injury -- Thompson returned the favor and broke Wake's (figuratively, of course) as FSU won 52-0.
And on that day -- after watching Chris Thompson's year-long ordeal end so resoundingly -- the media in the Doak Campbell press box let out a little cheer.
It was hard not to.
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