Missing the NFL Combine is something that many players fear. For Alabama Crimson Tide safety Deionte Thompson, that fear turned into a reality. In the few months before the Combine, during his workouts and preps, Thompson tore a ligament in his wrist.
“Just a freak accident in the weight room, lifting heavy weight, you know,” Thompson said. “Felt a pop. And that was that. Went and got an MRI. Torn ligament.”
While most players would be distraught at missing their chance to shine in front of NFL scouts and executives, Thompson remained optimistic. He saw the injury as a blessing in disguise and a way for him to work harder and get even better.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Thompson said. “I didn’t get too down on it. Things happen for a reason. It’s a blessing in disguise. So I attack it with a level head and look forward to what’s next.”
Thompson also knew that he would have another chance to impress scouts and executives at Alabama’s second Pro Day, on April 2, after more time rehabbing.
Take a look at photos from Sunday March 4, 2019 at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine. Photos from NFL.
After redshirting in 2015 and being a backup safety in 2016 and 2017, Thompson took over as a starting safety for the Alabama Crimson Tide in 2018. In his lone starting season, Thompson totaled 78 tackles and six pass breakups, along with two interceptions and forced four fumbles. He was named first-team All-SEC and first-team All-American, according to the Associated Press. His play was impressive enough for him to garner the status of being a potential first-round pick, and some have believed he will be drafted by the Redskins.
According to his Draft Network profile, Thompson has shown that his “size, length and his speed is impressive. Physical and athletic safety prospect with excellent closing burst on routes breaking in front of him. Plays fast and aggressive. Constantly looking to get in on the action, typical Alabama mindset to dictate terms as a tackler.”
When asked which safeties he plays like, Thompson said that he models his game after the Baltimore Ravens’ Earl Thomas, who also attended West Orange-Stark High School in West Orange, Texas. Thompson said that he also likes to play like Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith and Chicago Bears safety, and former Alabama safety, Eddie Jackson.
Pro Football Hall of Famer and analyst Shannon Sharpe compared Thompson to Ed Reed and Sean Taylor, but Thompson shot down the comparisons and remained humble.
“Those are the elite safeties, two of the greatest guys to ever play the position,” Thompson said. “I’m thankful for the compliment, but I have a lot of work to do to get to where they’re at”
While Thompson looked up to Thomas, Jackson, Smith, Reed and Taylor, he credited Miami Dolphins cornerback and former teammate Minkah Fitzpatrick for a lot of his development as a player. Fitzpatrick and Thompson were teammates at Alabama for three seasons, from 2015 to 2017.
"I learned a lot from him [Fitzpatrick] in his time at Alabama,” Thompson said. “He was a pro as soon as he stepped on campus. He was able to step into the starting nickel role. He was able to play every position in the secondary. He was a helpful leader, because he was so hands-on with everybody. If he saw that you were getting a certain coverage or [not] getting something right, he was willing to help you. That would be helpful for everybody.”
Thompson noted that he and Fitzpatrick had talked prior to the combine, with Fitzpatrick giving him advice about the draft process.
When speaking of Alabama head coach Nick Saban, Thompson credited Saban’s experience as a defensive back, and the long time he had spent as a defensive backs coach in both the NFL and NCAA. Due to Saban’s experience with defensive backs, Thompson said that he would spend extra time in the defensive back’s positional meetings and practices, which Thompson saw as being vital in his development.
Thompson said that Saban’s ability to make defensive backs into great NFL players was one of the deciding factors in choosing Alabama over the likes of Florida State, LSU and Notre Dame, among others.
“I went to Alabama because of the great tradition of defensive backs who played there,” Thompson said. “Great tradition of defensive backs who are in the league now. I played for the best coach in college football. He’s going to go down as the greatest coach in college football history. So just being able to be in that room with him every day, be at practice with him every day, getting critiqued by him every day, it made me the player that I am today.”