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Firebirds’ Thompson gets 2nd chance at Guilford

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When Southern Nash High senior Donovin Thompson tore his ACL in the fourth week of the 2018 season against West Johnston, he seriously contemplated ending his football career.

After all, academics are a priority in the Thompson household. With a 3.7 grade-point average and the instilled mindset that a “C” in any coursework isn’t acceptable, a college destination in some form was all but certain.

But then, the rehab began. As one day turned into another, Thompson, a tight end and defensive end for the Firebirds, realized he wasn’t ready to slam the door on his playing days, nor his dream of playing college football.

“As I started healing and going through the process, I started thinking I can really play football again!” Thompson said.

Would his grandfather get a chance to see him play on Saturdays? The answer is now yes.

In front of a gathering of coaches and family members Thursday morning, Thompson confirmed his intention to play football and attend Guilford College of the NCAA Division III ranks. Thompson, the son of Derek Thompson and Tamika Wooten of Middlesex, also visited North Carolina Wesleyan before deciding upon the Greensboro campus.

As a team, Southern Nash finished 10-1 and won the 3-A Big East Conference championship for the third straight season, reaching the second round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association playoffs.

But when Thompson — along with senior Ricky Knight — were each lost for the season in that West Johnston game, it was the start of an injury cycle that left the Firebirds’ defense ravaged by season’s end. The proceedings of Southern’s 57-56 season-ending loss to Eastern Alamance reflected a unit that had simply run out of able bodies and answers.

Thompson’s loss also took an effective blocker out of the Firebirds’ double-wing rushing attack. He’ll be a tight end at Guilford, contributing to an offense that rushed for just over 235 yards per game last season.

“Losing him early was bad,” Southern Nash head coach Brian Foster said.

“And that hurt Donovin’s opportunity for some places. But that’s the neat thing about Division III, it gives kids an opportunity, and they play good football. Guilford plays good football, has some good kids go there, and it’s a good place academically.”

Thompson will major in sports management and communication at Guilford, which was 3-6 under the direction of head coach Chris Rusiewicz last year. Division III institutions are not permitted to award athletic scholarships.

“It’s a blessing,” Thompson assured. “Because if God wanted me to, He could have told me I couldn’t play no more.”

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