UF already has a winner in Colin Thompson

Published: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 at 5:54 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 at 5:54 p.m.

All around the country, the fax machines were on overdrive. The long process of the necessary evil was coming to an end as if the signatures translated into immediate wins.

The classes were being rated on the fly. Every school in America, of course, had a great recruiting class the way every program has the best summer workouts ever.

We will judge them now and again in a few years, praise them too much when they sign and tear them down if they don’t live up to the expectations placed upon them.

Colin Thompson is one of those kids. He is considered one of the nation’s top tight end prospects. He is 6-foot-4 and 255 pounds with the desire to block and the hands to catch anything thrown near him.

He’s a five-star to those who have spent time around him, but not because of anything he has done on the football field.

Thompson, whose fax was one of the first in to Florida, spends as much time as possible giving back to the community in Warminster, Pa.

“I’m not trying to put things on my resume,” he said. “I enjoy doing it.”

Just like he enjoys John Shulby.

“He’s my best friend,” Thompson said.

They have been tight since the eighth grade when a coach asked Thompson to look after Shulby during track practice. They hit it off. And even though they went to different high schools, they remained close.

Shulby led the Archbishop Wood team onto the field before its football games, often doing a Brian Dawkins imitation that included mimicking an eagle and flexing.

Shulby has Down syndrome.

That’s why it was difficult for Thompson to pick up and move all the way to Gainesville.

“I thought about John during the process,” Thompson said. “But I had to make the best decision for me.”

That first time Thompson runs out of the tunnel as a Gator?

John will be there.

“He’ll be there for all the games,” Thompson said. ”It’s already booked. His family bought season tickets.”

Thompson wasn’t a high-profile recruit because of the kind of person he is. It’s all about 40 times and vertical leaps when it comes to recruiting.

But when you can add a player with great potential and already great character to your program, you’ve already had a great class.

“He’s a phenomenal young man,” UF coach Will Muschamp said. “He has an amazing family. It’s easy to see why he is where he is. I remember during my in-home visit all these people kept coming by the house to say hello to him and nobody knew I was there. He just has an effect on people.

“When Charlie Weis left, I called Colin and told him. He said, ‘Coach I committed to the University of Florida. I’ve got total confidence you’ll go out and get the right guy.’ I mean, that’s refreshing.”

So much is made by media and fans about what a player could be. Not enough weight is given to what they already are.

I know that coaches don’t get raises based on the quality of the character of the players they sign. And this is not to say that Colin Thompson is the only Florida signee with outstanding character. Certainly, there are hundreds of good kids who signed letters of intent on Wednesday with other schools.

But remember that these young men are about to head off to an experience that will help shape their lives. And they will, in turn, have a chance to affect their new communities.

Perhaps down the road, when we are evaluating a signing class and pulling out labels to stamp on athletes, we should look back on the way they handled themselves. Did they graduate? Were they a positive influence on the campus and community?

I’ve only talked to him once on the phone and seen some YouTube videos of his relationship with John, but I have a feeling Colin Thompson was a great get for the Gators.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at dooleyp@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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