Jordan Case was planted on the couch at home during arguably the finest moment of Derek Thompson’s North Texas career a few months ago.
Case picked up a parasite while on a trip to Africa and couldn’t make it to the Heart of Dallas Bowl, where Thompson carried on the legacy of one of the greatest quarterbacks in program history, throwing for 256 yards and two touchdowns in a 36-14 win over UNLV.
That win was one of the big topics of discussion during UNT’s annual Don January Golf Classic on Monday, when Case and Thompson had a chance to get to know each other better.
Thompson played on Case’s team in the event, taking time out from his preparations for the upcoming NFL draft and the free agent signings that follow.
“It was a young quarterback and an old quarterback,” Case said. “It was neat to get to know him a little bit. That was the most time I have gotten to spend with him. We talked about the upcoming draft, working out and what will happen next year with the guys he is leaving behind at North Texas.”
Case is well aware of the challenge Thompson will face in his pursuit of a pro football career. The UNT Athletic Hall of Famer threw for 2,608 yards with the Mean Green in the late 1970s and was considered a top NFL prospect.
Doctors discovered a spinal defect in pre-draft examinations, ending Case’s NFL dreams but not his pro career. He went on to play three seasons in the Canadian Football League and threw for 1,521 yards in 1981 before back problems ended his career.
“He gave me advice and told me to enjoy it,” Thompson said of what Case told him about the next few months and his efforts to continue his career. “He is a big-name guy around here and has supported North Texas athletics. It was good for me to pick a Hall of Fame quarterback’s brain a little.”
Thompson made an impression on Case on the golf course, just like he did on the field last season.
The former Glen Rose standout took a shot to the knee before coming back to lead the Mean Green to just the third bowl win in school history.
Case knows a lot about being hit in the knees from his days at UNT and with the Ottawa Rough Riders. Seeing Thompson come back from the hit made an impression.
“It’s not easy to take a shot to the knee and come back in the bowl game like he did,” Case said. “I showed him my knees and told him that is what his knees will look like in 30 years.”
Track and field
UNT heads to Austin for tune-up meet
UNT will head to the Longhorn Invitational on Saturday for its final tune-up for the Conference USA meet.
“This is the weekend where we will find out where we truly are,” UNT coach Carl Sheffield said. “We have had some good races, but the times have not really shown it. Confidence-wise, we need this to be a good weekend.”
UNT enters the meet off a solid performance at the J. Fred Duckett Twilight meet at Holloway Track/Ley Field in Houston, the same venue that will host the conference meet.
Alejandro Valencia won the 5,000 meters in a season-best time of 14:53.20, while Chastity Stewart won the 100 hurdles in 13.86.
UNT rested sprinters Clinton Collins and Nadiyah El-Amin in the hope that they can post top times this weekend and carry that momentum into the conference meet.
The meet will take place at night, when the temperature will drop and the wind typically dies down — perfect conditions for runners to post top times.
“This could set us up to go into the conference meet with momentum, and it gives us a chance to move up on the national performance list,” Sheffield said. “We want to get both done.”
Three Mean Green players named to All-C-USA team
Kseniya Bardabush was named to the All-Conference USA first team in both singles and doubles on Tuesday, when UNT had three players named to the team.
Anastasiya Shestakova also was named to the team in singles while Bardabush and Franziska Sprinkmeyer were named to the team in doubles.
“It’s exciting to have two singles players and a doubles team named to the all-conference team,” UNT coach Sujay Lama said in a statement. “These three make up a solid core group that will be back next year. We have an opportunity to continue building on the progress we made this year.”
Shestakova posted a 10-5 record at No. 2 singles, while Bardabush went 3-3 at No. 1 singles in C-USA play and 8-8 overall at No. 1 singles.
Bardabush and Sprinkmeyer went 6-0 in doubles, won their flight in the Las Vegas Invitational in the fall and were named first-team all-conference for the second straight year.
UNT finished 11-11 and lost to Rice in the semifinals of the C-USA tournament.
UNT aims to recover from tough weekend
UNT will aim to recover from a tough series against Florida International this weekend when it wraps up the regular season with a three-game set against Tulsa at Lovelace Stadium.
UNT (28-19, 12-8 C-USA) heads into the series in third place in the standings, but it is one of five teams with between seven and nine losses in league play.
Tulsa (18-2) has pulled away from the rest of the league and has a five-game lead in the loss column heading into the final weekend.
UNT is a game behind UAB (13-7) and a half game up on FIU, Florida Atlantic and East Carolina after being swept by the Golden Panthers in its last three-game series. FIU, FAU and ECU are all 12-9.
UNT lost four straight overall heading into a game at Baylor on Tuesday night.
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.