(Alex Thompson was an All-Big South selection for three straight years and was named a Second Team All-American by Phil Steele. He was the lynchpin for one of the top offensive lines in the FCS, with Monmouth averaging 5.5 yards per carry. Recently, Underdog Dynasty’s Jonathan Willis caught up with Alex and asked him about some of his experiences at Monmouth.)
When did you first start playing football? When did you realize that you were good enough to play football at the next level?
I actually started playing football when I was eight years old. From the start, I loved the sport. I continued to play it through youth football and high school. Then, after high school, I got the opportunity to play at Monmouth University. There I started to realize that I actually had a shot at the next level. So, I would say around college, around my sophomore year of college.
Did you have any specific moment that just stood out where you knew you were better than everybody else growing up?
There wasn’t really a moment where I realized it. I harnessed my work ethic from high school until now. I know that I want to be the hardest working person in the room when I’m in the room. I want to be the hardest working person on the field when I’m on the field.
Having that mindset, rolling with that mindset, helped me know that I can go to the next level. I can play with those guys that are also working hard out there. There wasn’t really a specific moment, it was just how I live my everyday life.
You’ve had an interesting journey. You originally committed to play at Delaware, but then decided to head to Milford Academy after head coach K.C. Keeler was fired. What brought you to Monmouth?
As you said, I committed to the University of Delaware. I graduated high school in 2013, but then the coach (at Delaware) got fired. So then I was able to look elsewhere. I didn’t really have the offers that I wanted, but I got the chance to play at Milford Academy. I got the chance to be the captain of the team there.
After that, I still didn’t really get the offers I thought I deserved. Other people I was on the team with were getting offers, so I went back to wrestling. I wrestled in high school, I was a state champion at my high school, so I went back to wrestling.
It was, I think, two or three weeks after I started wrestling at West Virginia, I didn’t like it at all. I knew where my heart was, and it was with football. So I reached out to my Monmouth University, and they gave me an opportunity to play for them in 2014. I was happy to get it.
Do you still wrestle? How do you feel that your experience as a wrestler helped you with football?
I actually don’t wrestle anymore. Unfortunately, Monmouth didn’t have a club team or a wrestling team, so I got the chance to really focus on football.
I think it helps a lot with football. I would preach until the day I die that I think every football player should wrestle. It helps your balance, it helps your stamina, your mindset. It helps you have quick reactions and better positioning too. It helps you think on your feet, and stuff like that too. I think wrestling goes really well with football and that they work hand in hand.
In 2017, you were an all-Big South selection for the third time and were named an All-American as well. What do you attribute your success to?
I attribute my success to Monmouth University. They gave me the opportunity to play there, and I knew what I could do. Straight out of high school, I knew what I could do. I guess because of the mindset that I’ve had my entire life, like I said before my work ethic, in my mind I won’t be second to anybody. Having that mindset not only helped from freshman year to senior year, but helped me get recognized by the league and I’m thankful for that.
Like I said, I attribute that success to Monmouth University, to my position coach Brian Gabriel. He puts in a lot of work for us. He’s solid and gives us great feedback. He tells us what we’re doing wrong and also tells us what we’re doing right. He focuses on the little things, which I think are really important as well. Those things are what I give credit to.
Monmouth had one of the top offensive lines in the FCS in terms of production, averaging 5.5 YPC on the ground. What set your unit apart from all the others?
I think it was our chemistry. I lived with our entire offensive line during the year, and those guys have been my best friends since I went to Monmouth University. The fact that we got the opportunity to play two years in a row, all together, really made it easy for us to communicate and get things done out there.
The first year we had a little bit of communication problems, stuff like that, because some of us had been playing longer than others. By 2016 and 2017, we really focused on communicating and what we had to do, the attitude we needed in order to be successful. I think that our whole chemistry as an offense, honestly, was what really separated us from a bunch of teams in the FCS.
How did it feel to be part of the first team in school history to reach the FCS playoffs?
It’s a great feeling. I’ll always be able to say that I was a part of that 2017 team that made history at Monmouth University. I mean, it’s a great feeling to know that all the hard work I put in, from when I came in as a freshman paid off. We didn’t really get to the place that we wanted to, but it paid off in a little way in that we made it into the record book. It’s a really great feeling, and I know that a bunch of the guys that I came in with feel the same way. We’re definitely going to think about that one forever.
Is Monmouth planning on having a Pro Day? If so, when is it?
Monmouth University is having a Pro Day on March 27.
How do you see yourself fitting in at the NFL level?
I see myself fitting in good. From what I said before, my work ethic will never let anyone in the room outwork me. If I see competition, I love competition and I step right up to it. I see myself competing at the next level, and I’m really excited to see it happen.
What do you like to do in your spare time? When you’re not playing football?
When I’m not playing football, I’m a really big family and friends person. I really like to spend time with my family. I come from a big family. My mother had 10 kids and I have a bunch of nieces and nephews, so when I’m not playing football I like to spend time with them and catch up.
I also like hanging out with my friends. I’m a big believer that your support system is what keeps you going and I think that my friend group are those people. I like hanging out and getting my mind off the sport when I’m not really playing.
Tell us something that you think is interesting or unique about you. What sets you apart from everybody else?
What sets me apart from everybody else is my drive to be successful, my drive to stand out, and my drive to win. I won’t settle for anything less than what I know I can do, and I won’t settle for anything less than my best. The fact that I see I have that is important. Some people don’t really know how far they can go, but I won’t stop. I want to keep going until I don’t have anymore left in me. What sets me apart is my grind to be successful and my work ethic.