Thompson tackling opponents one game at a time

JACOB MOORE | Evergreen sports editor

LUKE HOLLISTER | Daily Evergreen File

He is not the biggest athlete on the football team and he certainly isn’t the tallest, but sophomore safety Jalen Thompson knows how to tackle. In fact, he is on track to record nearly 100 total tackles in 2017 as he currently leads the Cougs with 24 in just three games.

Defensive Coordinator Alex Grinch has played an influential role in bringing out Thompson’s ability, the safety said.

“I don’t know where I’d be without him,” Thompson said. “Coach Grinch has helped me a lot.”

Thompson comes from Downey, California, where he grew up with his older brothers Jamari and Javon. The Downey High School graduate won a California Interscholastic Federation Championship and has a thorough list of individual honors to accompany that feat.

While his brothers remained in-state to play football at Cerritos College, Thompson brought his three-star prospect rating by ESPN to the Palouse. He turned down offers from Navy, Army, New Mexico State and San Diego State in his decision to wear No. 34 for the Cougars.

Ranked the No. 56 cornerback in the nation coming out of high school, he immediately saw playing time in the defensive backfield.

Almost always smiling, Thompson broke up a team-best seven passes last year and was a vital part of the Cougs’ eight-game winning streak.

Participating in track implies that speed is an obvious asset for the young athlete, but it is Thompson’s constant desire for improvement that separates him from his opponents.

“If you don’t hear [Thompson’s] name as often as you did early in his freshman season, it’s because he did an exemplary job of forgetting that costly error in angle judgement … he’s not making similar mistakes,” according to an article published by the Lewiston Tribune last month.

Instead, he’s taking his failures and transforming them into success.

“I kind of picked up how they were moving in that game, and the next game, I tried to fix it,” Thompson said of his debut errors. “I learned from my mistakes.”

The safety has bolstered up since he committed to WSU, putting on nearly 30 pounds — most of which is muscle. As a result, his statistics have already shot up from where they were one year ago.

As Grinch likes to say and as Thompson likes to repeat, the players ought to take it “one game at a time.”

Thompson led all Cougar defenders with seven tackles in week one. He then finished with eight in week two and added nine more in week three — again, leading the team.

The drive to improve is what keeps the safety motivated, Thompson said. He’s done that from game-to-game as well as season-to-season.

“Last year, I wasn’t as confident as I am this year,” Thompson said in a post-practice interview. “I got the plays down this year. I’m trying to be the fastest player on the field.”