Derek Thompson knew that if he didn’t play football beyond his days at North Texas he would follow in his mother’s footsteps and coach on the high school level.
One of the most productive players in UNT history found his opportunity this week, when he accepted a position at DentonHigh School.
Thompson will coach quarterbacks under Denton head coach Kevin Atkinson and also will coach freshman girls basketball.
Thompson’s mother, Wendy Thompson, spent 17 years coaching girls basketball and led Henrietta Midway to the 1997 state tournament.
“This is what I always wanted to do,” Thompson said. “I grew up with it with my mom being a coach. It will be a chance to give back. I was really blessed to play for so many good coaches. I can give kids the same opportunities that were afforded me.”
Thompson was a three-year starter at UNT and in January finished his career ranked among the program’s career leaders in just about every major statistical category, including passing yards (second, 7,447), passing touchdowns (fourth, 42) and 300-yard passing games (first, seven).
Thompson spent a short time with the Denver Broncos before turning his focus to beginning a coaching career.
“He will do a great job,” UNT offensive coordinator Mike Canales said. “He has great passion and is so smart. He went with us on our satellite camp tour. Watching him with the kids and the way he gets his message across, you can see that he will be a good coach. He went through the ups and downs and has great stories. He put on an NFL helmet. He can give a lot of messages kids can relate to.”
Thompson spent five seasons at UNT and came back from suffering a broken leg in 2010 to start the final three seasons of his college career. The former Glen Rose standout capped his time at UNT on a high note, throwing for 256 yards and two touchdowns in the Mean Green’s win over UNLV in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
Thompson was named the game’s MVP.
“He brings a lot of playing experience and can really relate to the kids,” Atkinson said of Thompson. “One thing you can tell after talking to Derek and to coach Canales is that he can coach. He knows what appeals to kids. We are excited about what he has to offer.”
Thompson said that he is looking forward to learning more about the coaching business.
“Coach Atkinson is a great guy and is very energetic,” Thompson said. “He’s great with the kids.”
Thompson is among the first few former UNT players who played for Dan McCarney during his three seasons with the Mean Green to enter the high school coaching ranks.
Canales said those connections will be valuable for UNT down the line when the Mean Green staff hits the road to recruit.
Joining the staff at Denton will allow Thompson to stay in his adopted hometown and keep an eye on his alma mater and his former teammates.
“It has been home for five years,” Thompson said. “It was a perfect situation.”
There might not be a person more excited to see how that situation unfolds than Wendy Thompson.
“I hope he loves coaching as much as I did,” Wendy Thompson said. “It’s in his blood. He has been around it so much.”
Wendy Thompson and her husband, Terry, will make the trip to Denton to see their son begin the next stage of his career in athletics. Wendy Thompson will be particularly interested to see how he fares with his basketball team.
“I died laughing when I heard that,” Wendy Thompson said of her son’s subvarsity coaching assignment. “I love it. I am going to go and laugh the whole game. Girls are hard to coach with their emotions. Guys are not usually equipped for that.
“That will make him a better coach. He will have to learn the lower levels and work his way up. It will make him appreciate the guys more.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.