Saturday is a business trip for Fenton offensive lineman Reid Thompson, who is one of seven players from Michigan competing in the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl at the Jacksonville Jaguars’ EverBank Field.
Despite being an all-state guard, Thompson doesn’t have a scholarship offer from any Football Bowl Subdivision or Division II teams, so he’s hoping to use the All-Star game to showcase his skills for any program looking to add a last-minute lineman before National Signing Day.
Thompson, who has a few preferred walk-on opportunities, has been overlooked because he’s only 6 feet tall and despite coming from a Fenton program that has sent 35 players to the next level the past five seasons.
“This game, for me, is a lot different than how a lot of the other guys see it,” he said. “I’ve looked through the rosters of the Blue team and Grey team, and a lot of guys are committed to Power 5 schools. They’re getting a vacation to Jacksonville and get to have fun and just go to this game.
“I’m treating this more as a business trip. I don’t have any offers yet, so I’m going against Power 5 defensive tackles and hope to hold my own and create tape. That’s the big plan for me.”
Thompson, who will play for the Blue team, is used to overcoming challenges like these.
Because he has eight siblings, his family couldn’t always afford to send him to skill or exposure camps, so he has had to find other ways to improve his game and catch the eye of colleges.
That’s something the 285-pound guard did with the Blue-Grey game, which uses those camps to identify players to invite.
“Over the summer, I wasn’t able to get to do a lot of that stuff,” Thompson said. “I have eight brothers and sisters and a big family. It’s expensive to go to those camps sometimes, so I wasn’t able to get to a lot of games, so I’ve been doing the best to let my tape speak for me.
“I was lucky enough to get reached out by the bowl’s coordinator because my tape had circled around where they’re stationed at, and they saw it and contacted me over Twitter to invite me without ever seeing me at a camp.”
They saw some pretty good tape. Thompson led the Tigers to a 9-3 record and a Division 2 regional championship appearance, recording 91 pancake blocks and giving up no personal penalties or sacks.
“He’s a fiery football player when the pads are on,” Fenton coach Jeff Setzke said. “He’s going to come get you, and he’s very team-oriented with excellent leadership.
“I read somewhere that one of the scouts said he would be a five-star recruit if he was taller. That’s kind of unfair because he’s penalized because he’s 6 foot and maybe a half-inch. He’ll match up and get really good competition to show what he’s capable of doing at that game. That’s the best thing that could happen for him. He has to prove to everybody, from a size standpoint, that there are other things that are more important than his height.”
Thompson was inspired to improve his game last summer. He got into the weight room and added muscle. He lifted six days a week while conditioning on his rest day. He picked up on new blocking techniques and learned how to use his height disadvantage to gain leverage on taller defensive linemen.
“He’s got good feet, obviously from a balance standpoint, but he’s really, really good in space, too,” Setzke said. “We used him a lot to pull. He’s got good hand placement and strikes well. He’s an all-around good lineman. We play him at guard, but he started at center when he was a sophomore, and he has the ability to play anywhere on the interior.”
Thompson relied on help from both the Fenton and Lake Fenton communities to fundraise for his trip to Jacksonville.
Now he hopes he can earn some scholarship money when he takes the field at 1 p.m. Saturday.
“Even if I play only a quarter, I’ll have tape to prove I can really play,” he said.
Michigan players competing in the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl:
DeVon Mines (Blue Team)
High School: Romulus
College Plans: Undecided with interest from D-II and JUCO programs
Derek Horne (Blue)
High School: Milford
College Plans: Undecided with interest from D-I and D-II programs
Reid Thompson (Blue)
High School: Fenton
College Plans: Undecided with D-I and D-II preferred walk-on offers
Larry Borom (Blue)
High School: Brother Rice
College Plans: Committed to Missouri
Edward Brecht (Blue)
High School: Lapeer
College Plans: Committed to Kent State
Nick Novak (Blue)
High School: Lake Orion
College Plans: Committed to Navy
Sean Fitzgerald (Grey)
High School: Mt. Pleasant
College Plans: Committed to Air Force