Dominique Thompson ('05): Preparing to play pro football again
Coming out of the William and Mary football program, Dominique Thomspon '05 was regarded as one of, if not, the top wide receiver in Tribe history. He shattered records held by Mike "Pinball" Clemons '89, who was the greatest star in Canadian Football League history, and Rich Musinski '04, the top Tribe receiver who preceded Thompson. He was poised to enter the National Football League and continue what he started while he was with William and Mary, first with the St. Louis Rams and the Carolina Panthers.
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Those teams valued his speed, on-field skills, overall football knowledge and talent, but for some reason did not enter him into game situations. That relegated him to waiting for the next play, game after game. He signed with the Panthers last season, only to be cut from the 53-man roster the week before opening day.
Now he's out to prove himself and restart his record-setting career in the United Football League (UFL), which will kick off on October 8th, and will be televised on the Versus network.
"It's a great opportunity for me to get out on the field and try to make some plays and to show that I can play at this level," says Thompson. "I really haven't had a lot of opportunities within the league. It's really hard to crack a pro receiver roster with certain NFL teams."
Thompson warns people up front, that the UFL will be nothing like the most recent challenge to the NFL's football supremacy.
"The UFL is not going to be a gimmicky league like the XFL was," says Thompson. "We're not going to have wrestling and football mixed together. It will be traditional football and that will attract a lot more viewers too. Not a lot of hype, just the way football is supposed to be played."
Thompson also says that, unlike the way the XFL, or even the USFL, positioned itself as a competitor to the NFL, the UFL will act more like a league for players in-between college football and the National Football League.
"The UFL will have a working relationship with the NFL," says Thompson. "We won't try to compete with the NFL. I think it will be more like a farm league, where some guys who slipped through the cracks coming out of college and missed their chance with an NFL team, they can try to show their talent.
"For guys like me who have been around for a while, but maybe just haven't had a lot of opportunities with NFL teams, I will have a chance to play and also show that I am capable of playing at that NFL level," says Thompson. "The UFL will be a big exposure league."
Thompson is excited about his opportunity to play in Orlando's UFL franchise, and that the connections that he made in the NFL are now coming into play.
"Jim Haslett will be the coach, and I have a relationship with him from when he was the defensive coordinator in St. Louis when I was out with the Rams," says Thompson. "He remembered me from my days in St. Louis."
As of this writing, Thompson and the rest of the Orlando team's players have not met for an organized practice, so he is currently getting into game shape at his home in North Carolina. The players report to training camp Sept. 9 for formal practices, and by that time the names of the four UFL franchises will be publicly announced, though the Orlando Sentinel suggests that one may be the Orlando Tuskers.
"I'm ready to get back and play," says Thompson. "I've been away from it since last September. That will be almost a full year since I have been away from football. It's very exciting to be a part of this."