The Mid-American Conference, better known as the MAC, has been gaining respect in the college football world. The latest big win the conference got was last Saturday when Northern Illinois won at Nebraska 21-17. Ohio State and Wisconsin now are the only Big Ten teams not to go down to a MAC team this century.
The conference is also putting out more NFL talent. Former Western Michigan wide receiver Corey Davis was just drafted fifth overall by the Tennessee Titans in this year’s NFL Draft. Khalil Mack (Buffalo), Eric Fisher (Central Michigan), Joe Staley (Central Michigan) and Ben Roethlisberger (Miami) are all MAC products that were drafted in the first round. Other MAC talent includes Antonio Brown (Central Michigan), Julian Edelman (Kent State) and Doug Free (Northern Illinois).
One other MAC product is looking to get to the NFL. Toledo Rockets wide receiver Cody Thompson could very well be the next top NFL product to come from the MAC.
Thompson is currently leading the conference with 391 receiving yards and four touchdown catches. Last year he set the school record for receiving yards in a season with 1,269. He’s helped the Rockets to a 3-0 start to the season and they are heading to Miami for a big test with the Hurricanes. Things are looking bright for Thompson and the Rockets.
Thompson thinks the MAC is starting to get more recognition for their hard-working style of football.
“I definitely think the MAC is getting more respect,” Thompson said in an interview with The Game Haus. “I’ve always had respect for the MAC. It’s a great conference; competitive, hard-nosed gritty football. Everybody is going to give you their best day in and day out no matter what the team is.”
Early years and recruiting
Thompson started his high school football at Huron High School off with a bang. As a sophomore, he finished the year with 48 catches for 865 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Then things changed up a bit. Thompson’s quarterback graduated and the team was looking for a replacement. Thompson’s coach decided to move him to quarterback and see what he could do.
Thompson didn’t disappoint. In his first year at quarterback he threw for 1,574 passing yards and 22 touchdowns while also rushing for 1,001 yards and 14 more touchdowns. He followed up his senior year with even better numbers, throwing for 1,883 yards and 17 touchdowns and rushing for 1,139 yards and 22 more scores.
Thompson had fun playing quarterback, but his heart has always been at the receiver position.
“I enjoyed quarterback, but I knew I had a passion and love for receiver,” Thompson said. “So when it came to the recruiting process I went to all my camps and everything as a receiver or an athlete. Then when I got the opportunity at Toledo, I moved to receiver. I was excited to get back to receiver.”
Thompson said switching back to receiver wasn’t a problem despite playing two years of quarterback. He said the upperclassmen on the team helped make the transition easier.
“It was pretty smooth and I’m happy with it,” he said. “I love the position I’m at now and I wouldn’t change it for anything.”
When it came to recruiting, Thompson didn’t get that much attention from the Division I scene. Toledo was the only offer Thompson received. Head coach Matt Campbell (currently at Iowa State) liked what he saw in Thompson and offered him a spot on the team.
Thompson said joining the Rockets has been his greatest football-related memory to date.
“I was beyond happy and excited and kind of at a loss for words,” Thompson said. “At that moment I knew they gave me a shot and I was going to take it and commit here, and that’s what I did and I ran with it.”
Thompson started off slow as most freshmen do. He caught just four passes for 34 yards in his first year as a Rocket. Most of his snaps came on special teams. It wasn’t until his sophomore year that he started to make an impact on offense.
In his sophomore season, Thompson led the Rockets in receiving yards with 825 on 37 catches, five being touchdowns. Toledo finished 10-2 that season with big wins over No. 18 Arkansas, Iowa State and No. 24 Temple in the Boca Raton Bowl. Thompson had four catches for 119 yards and a touchdown in the bowl game.
Thompson continued to get better in his junior year. The Rockets finished 9-4, although they lost in the Media Camellia Bowl against Appalachian State. But Thompson’s numbers got even better. Thompson got a school-record 1,269 receiving yards off of 64 catches and scored 11 touchdowns.
Thompson is in his senior year now and dominating the field so far. He leads the MAC conference in yards (391) and touchdown catches (four). Thompson and the Rockets have a big test Saturday against the Miami Hurricanes, who are currently ranked 14th. You can catch that game on the ACC network to watch Thompson showcase his skills.
Thompson now has a legit shot at the NFL. The MAC’s leading receivers for the last decade have all had stints in the NFL. Some sites like Hero Sports think Thompson could get picked as high as the third round. Depending on how well Thompson plays this season, it could be even higher.
Thompson believes NFL teams will like his intelligence and work ethic.
“I’m still a pretty smart football player when it comes to football IQ, understanding the game coverages and defenses and how we gameplan and study and why we’re doing certain things,” Thompson said. “I also think I’m pretty good at tracking the ball, blocking on the perimeter, really just being a hard-nosed gritty person.”
Thompson also understands that his game has room for improvement. He believes every player has aspects of their game that can get better.
“For me that is a quicker burst off the line, creating more separation at the top of my route, really every aspect of my game has room to improve on,” he said.
Thompson’s former teammate Kareem Hunt has been the latest product from the MAC to make noise in the NFL. Hunt has already set the record for most yards from scrimmage by a player in their first game. Thompson said watching Hunt has served as motivation for him to get better and get to the next level.
“It’s been amazing,” Thompson said. “Something I know he’s dreamed of his entire life and now he’s got the opportunity to do it. He’s really taken it and ran with it. What he’s done so far is just a testament to the player he is and the person he is.”
The NFL is also something Thompson has dreamed about. Right now he is focussed on working hard and finishing his time at Toledo strong.
“Playing in the NFL has been a dream of mine since I was little and couldn’t even pick up a football,” Thompson said. “Ultimate goal right now is to win a championship and have the best possible senior year I can and this team can. I want to chase that with everything I have and make the most out of every opportunity.”
Thompson has been working hard his whole life to get where he is and doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon. Any team that gives him a shot in the NFL won’t regret it. Thompson is the type of player that goes 100 miles an hour at all times and isn’t going to let anybody get an edge on him.
“I’m always going to play and practice and compete as if i’m fighting for my spot still,” Thompson said. “I don’t think I’ve lost any complacency. It’s something that will get you beat or get your job taken from you. I don’t want to be complacent with anything.”
Featured Image by the Associated Press
“From Our Haus to Yours”