Neck injury ends Thompson’s son’s football career at Drake

From left, Alex Thompson, then 11, with Kathleen McCall and Kent Thompson as they prepared to leave Birmingham, Ala., and move to Denver in 2005. Photo by Phil Scarsbrook, Alabama Shakespeare Festival.


By John Moore

Sept. 21, 2012

Except for perhaps opening nights, nothing made Kent Thompson’s face light up like watching his son play football.

Check that: Nothing made Kent Thompson’s face light up like watching his son play football.

The Denver Center Theatre Company artistic director and proud papa loved talking about Alex Thompson’s progress at Cherry Creek High School, and sneaking away on weekends to catch his games. In four years, he never missed one.

Alex was a highly sought recruit, and Thompson chronicled their recruiting adventures on Twitter from Florida to Northwestern to Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, where Alex ultimately decided to attend college and play Division I football as a linebacker.

Thompson’s most recent Tweet remains the one he sent during a recruiting visit to Drake with Alex on Jan. 15, 2011: “Des Moines. Visiting football program at Drake with Alex. Very cold. Good school. Good program.”

Alex Thompson. Photo courtesy Drake University.

Alex suffered a career-ending neck injury during the opening kickoff of the Bulldogs’ game at Indiana State last Saturday (Sept. 15). The 6-foot-1, 230-pound sophomore linebacker lay on the field for more than 10 minutes as medical personnel attended to him. “He lost sort of all feeling,” head coach Chris Creighton told the Des Moines Register. “In his words, he thought he was paralyzed.”

Drake assistant athletic director Ty Patton told the Register’s Tommy Birch that Thompson was diagnosed with a disk slide under his C3 vertebra, effectively ending his football career. On Monday, the Register reported, Thompson returned to practice standing, wearing a neck brace, and became emotional while  addressing coaches and teammates before practice.

Kent Thompson opened his seventh season as DCTC artistic director last night (Sept. 20) with August Wilson’s “Fences.” Productions of “The Three Musketeers” and “The Giver” open in the next two weeks.

Kent Thompson, son of a Baptist minister, lost his first wife, Carol, in 1997, after a five-year battle with cancer. The couple adopted Alex from a Korean woman in 1993, when Carol was in remission. “There is always something around the corner that seems to be just kind of a miracle,” Thompson said of Alex in a 2005 interview.

Since his son was 4, Kent Thompson has raised Alex  with his second wife, DCTC actress Kathleen McCall.

McCall hails from a line of Colorado high-school football legends. Her father, Don McCall, was a coach for 34 years at Douglas County High School. Her brother, Mick McCall, is the offensive coordinator at Northwestern; and her other brother, Randy McCall, is an NCAA basketball referee and former athletic director at Cherry Creek High School.

At Cherry Creek High School, Alex received 34 “Bruin Awards” for Performance Recognition during games.

“I’m outgoing, competitive, pretty passionate person and a leader,” Alex Thompson told in 2010. He was also very active in the community. He volunteered with the Denver Rescue Mission and The Crossing (a halfway house for homeless families) and worked to make Cherry Creek High School a hate-free zone.

“We work to make our school a no-hate school; no hate, no discrimination. I’m a facilitator, teaching and sharing leadership skills and activities on how to get to know each other,” he told the web site.  “People are scared of things that are not like them and things they don’t understand.”

For as important as football is to Alex Thompson, he let the web site know his priorities were clear.

“First  is education,” said Thompson, who aspires to be a writer.  “I plan to use football to get the best education I can. Second is football. Third is the environment.”

Kent Thompson talked about life as a football father with The Denver Post’s Bill Husted in 2009.