HUNTINGTON — Throughout Marshall’s spring drills, there has been a wide receiver donning the No. 88 who has been streaking down the sidelines for the Thundering Herd offense.
While Marshall true freshman Broc Thompson knows he’s not Randy Moss, the Indianapolis native does feel that he can become a key playmaker on the outside for the Herd.
After getting acclimated to things as an early enrollee, Thompson has made significant strides over the last two weeks, getting separation from the defense on the outside on Saturday for a long touchdown reception before sitting down in the middle of the field and using his acceleration to score in team periods again on Thursday.
While Thompson is growing more comfortable within the offense, there is one thing that he’s not 100 percent comfortable with — catching it in the No. 88, which he spoke candidly about this week.
“When I first came here and got my spring ball jersey, I went in and I said, ‘Coach Doc, they gave me 88,’ ” Thompson said. “I actually love that pressure, but I hope they actually — I think 88 should be retired here, so I hope they retire it, but if they want me to wear it, I’ll proudly wear that with pride.”
The No. 88 jersey is likely to only be Thompson’s for the spring practices, meaning that Saturday’s Green-White scrimmage may be the last time anyone gets to see the No. 88 in action at Marshall.
However, the No. 88-clad Thompson will be a player to watch as young players get their chance to showcase their abilities in the Herd’s final 2019 spring session.
“If you just watch him, he just keeps making plays,” Marshall football coach Doc Holliday said. “He keeps getting better. I went in about two weeks ago and I told those guys that we have to give him every rep we possibly can give him. He got here in early January and it’s really helping him.”
One thing that sets Thompson apart from most other players is the level of success by which he’s been surrounded throughout his life.
His father, Ryan Thompson, played in the Major Leagues for nine seasons as an outfielder, including 2000, when he played 33 games for the World Series champion New York Yankees.
His brother, Trevor Thompson, was Ohio State’s 7-foot starting center and got signed by the Boston Celtics for their 2017 Summer League team before spending three days with the Golden State Warriors later that year. He is now playing professionally in Belgium.
With that type of family pedigree, Thompson’s competitive nature was instilled at an early age, and it has only grown with time.
“It drives me because I want to be better than them,” Thompson said. “My dad was at the pinnacle of professional sports. He won a world championship and I was in an MLB championship parade at the age of 2. I wasn’t aware at that time, but as I grew older, I started to realize what I was able to do on the football field. I wanted to strive to be better and it drives me every practice because I want to be better than them.”
Thompson’s proof is in the success he’s seen wherever he has been on the field.
The Herd’s new 6-2, 176-pound target was the leading receiver at Ben Davis High School in Indiananapolis in 2017, finishing with 1,400 yards receiving and 17 touchdowns for the national powerhouse that was ranked No. 5 nationally.
Because he was undersized from a bulk perspective, Thompson signed with Western Illinois but opted to go to Fork Union Military Academy in an effort to lure a larger program to the mix.
Thompson helped Fork Union to a 9-0 record — its first undefeated post-graduate season since 1982 — and hauled in a pair of touchdown receptions in a 28-26 win over East Coast Prep that was the closest contest of the season for the program.
His abilities garnered major interest from both Tennessee and Marshall and, after an unofficial visit to the Volunteers, Thompson opted to sign with Marshall in the December signing period before enrolling in January.
The key for his signing with Marshall? The Herd’s consistent winning tradition and the honesty and leadership of Holliday and Marshall wide receivers coach Dallas Baker.
“Tradition and history and everything we have sets us apart from everybody else in our league,” Holliday said. “That helps with recruiting, especially with guys who have the pedigree he does. They want to be part of a winning program and we’ve done that around here for a long time.”
“Coach Bake and Doc really pointed out the winning tradition,” Thompson said. “My receivers coach [Baker], he’s a big reason why I came here. He was an SEC Player of the Year, a Super Bowl champion, a national champion. I want him to take me under his wing and show me everything — just teach me and guide me.”
Baker and Holliday aren’t the only successful football players who have helped guide Thompson’s path.
He also has a strong relationship with former Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne, who was one of the NFL’s top receivers over the course of his 14 years in the league.
“Mr. Wayne has taught me a lot — not just football-wise, but off-the-field things, too,” Thompson said. “We’ve had a lot of personal talks and he’s told me that, when I start to mold into the man I should become, always stay level-headed and humble because God can take it away in a moment.”
Right now, Thompson is seizing his moment with the Herd while cementing his future with the program for the next several years.
It is a constant battle to stay on top with the speed of the college game and the information being given to him in waves this spring.
But as he’s done throughout his football career, Thompson plans on winning that battle.
It’s simply in his DNA to do so.