Like a sprint car, Deron Thompson is going to pass you
Conversations linking running backs and speed are common. Coaches want a player who can take a handoff and race past the defense for a touchdown.
Speed is more than a conversation point in reference to Northwest senior running back Deron Thompson. Mention his name and there’s likely to be a breathless commentary regarding just how fast he really is.
“A lot of backs are fast, but he’s just faster than everyone else,” Northwest quarterback Erin Gaither said.
Thompson, who had 1,476 rushing yards in 2012, is also one of the state’s top sprinters. He ran the 100 meters in 10.6 seconds early last spring before being slowed by an injury.
“He’s such a dynamic back,” Northwest coach Steve Martin said. “He can see the whole field. He’s very patient. He knows when to step on the pedal or not.
“It’s like nitrous oxide. He knows when to push the button to get that extra speed.”
Thompson’s speed has helped him garner attention from major colleges, picking up scholarship offers from Kansas State, Minnesota, Colorado State, Idaho, Army and Western Michigan.
“When he has the ball in his hands, it’s over, the band’s going to be playing. That is his appeal to Division I schools,” Martin said. “He’s a game-changer. If he gets on the edge, it’s done. He has good vision in the open field, he has moves. And if he has space, it’s over.”
Thompson’s successful 2012 season — he was an All-Metro selection — is doubly impressive because he was hobbled by an ankle injury that he suffered before the first game. He had three games of more than 220 rushing yards, but also had four under 100.
Just the thought of a healthy Thompson evokes an emphatic statement from Martin.
“We haven’t seen the best of Deron Thompson yet,” he said.
Thompson is banking on it. He has lofty goals of leading the City League in rushing, as he did in 2012, and setting the single-season league rushing record, set by East’s Bryce Brown (1,873 yards in 2008).
“I use my speed,” Thompson said. “I know people aren’t as fast as me, so I use my speed to do what I need to do, plus I use my strength.”
Thompson (5-foot-9, 175 pounds) has put a greater emphasis on weight training, although he has tempered it because of his desire to win a state title in track. Thompson, who has been slowed by injuries the past two years at state track, has his sights on winning the 6A 100 meters next spring. And for him to do that, he knows he can’t put on too much muscle.
Still, he has spent the summer lifting four or five times a week, while also working on foot drills and other speed work.
“I know I haven’t had a chance to really prove it or show it, but I know I am way faster than a 10.6,” Thompson said with a laugh.
Northwest track coach Ron Russell broke down Thompson’s running ability, noting his focused center of gravity, technique and natural speed.
But there’s more to Thompson than simple speed.
“I’ve had a lot of kids who are football fast and playground fast, but it doesn’t transfer to the track,” Russell said. “Maybe they are one of the faster kids on the football field, have nice explosion, but they can’t maintain it like Deron can.
“He can turn it on at any time. If he gets to the corner, most of the time, kids won’t catch him, especially later in the game. If he gets to the open field, he has the speed where they won’t catch him.”
It’s a difference that defenses are sure to note. The scary thing for those same defenses — take a deep breath — Thompson is healthy.
“I feel good, I feel healthy,” he said. “I’m faster, stronger, smarter in the football aspect.”
Good luck catching him.