CINCINNATI — Jordan Thompson’s leadership isn’t just evident as a sophomore defensive tackle at Northwestern University. It was significantly apparent during his standout football seasons at La Salle High School.
Nearly two months before La Salle won the school’s first-ever state football title during his senior season in 2014, the Lancers’ only loss that fall occurred at home against St. Xavier. An emotional 24-21 home loss to St. X on a Bombers’ game-winning field goal that October would prove disheartening for the Lancers.
"I will probably remember that game until I’m probably 80,” Thompson said. La Salle coach Nate Moore remembers walking out of the empty locker room and hearing a noise in the weight room.
It was Thompson working out late that Friday night. “He had a goal and vision for leading the team,” said Moore, who is now in his second season with Massillon Washington. “He is a coach’s dream.”
That work ethic is apparent this summer. During a blistering hot mid-June afternoon, the 19-year-old Thompson is working out alone at on the field at Lancer Stadium. He is running and conditioning. He’s preparing mentally for the grind.
"He is just a special young man," La Salle defensive line/special teams coach Brian Heidorn said. "By far he is one of the best leaders we've had at La Salle and I've been coaching here for more than 25 years."
The Big Ten honorable mention freshman selection planned to be in Cincinnati for a week to “recharge the batteries” before returning to Illinois.
"He is just working his tail off," Heidorn said. "He was big for us. I'll never forget what he did to pull that whole unit together (in 2014). He was a major factor."
There is always room for improvement – weeks before training camp starts for the Big Ten program. Thompson is viewed as a top-10 player returning for the team this season.
Northwestern (10-3 in 2015) earned the program’s fourth 10-win season and lost to Tennessee in the Outback Bowl in January. Thompson appeared in every game for the Wildcats in 2015 and started one. He led all true freshmen in tackles.
“He is a special talent,” Moore said. “There is no doubt about that.”
But in no way is he satisfied. He studied the game film from his freshman season and says it reminded him of an awkward teenage mode.
“But now that’s out of the way and I can focus on playing harder because I know where I am going,” Thompson said.
Thompson said the high school competition in the GCL South prepared him well for this freshman season and he’s moving forward for this upcoming campaign whether playing inside or outside. He's also made an impact on the team's leadership council at Northwestern.
That's not a surprise for Heidorn, who keeps in contact with Thompson.
"He led and nobody ever questioned him," Heidorn said. "He earned every amount of that leadership."
Northwestern opens the season Sept. 3 against visiting Western Michigan – the first of four home games in Evanston.
Moore said he’s looking forward to seeing what Thompson brings to the table down the road.
“Jordan has all the intangibles,” Moore said. “If Jordan wants to play another eight to 10 years I don’t think that’s out of the question.”