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Student of the game

Westover’s Thompson one of nation’s top DL

Westover defensive lineman Trenton Thompson has offers from 16 NCAA Division I schools, and the junior might one day be the most celebrated football player to ever come out of Dougherty County. (Staff Photo: Tim Morse)

Westover defensive lineman Trenton Thompson has offers from 16 NCAA Division I schools, and the junior might one day be the most celebrated football player to ever come out of Dougherty County. (Staff Photo: Tim Morse)

ALBANY — It’s 3 o’clock in the afternoon, it’s nearly 100 degrees outside in the middle of July and Trenton Thompson could be relaxing on the sofa, especially considering he is about to have four hours of voluntary weight training at Westover High School.

Instead, the 6-foot-4, 290-pound defensive lineman sorts through a collection of football highlight tapes. This afternoon, he is looking at one of former NFL standout Warren Sapp’s defensive performances.

“I like to watch Warren Sapp,” Thompson said. “When I was younger, I wore No. 76. I wanted to play the game like Warren Sapp.”

Thompson spends countless hours analyzing Sapp’s moves. He doesn’t just watch the big plays. He analyzes Sapp’s technique as well as his tenacity and passion. You see, Thompson is a student of the game, and his love for watching film has made the standout into the player he is.

Thompson already has 16 offers from many of the nation’s top Division I programs. Most are from the Southeast — including Georgia and Florida State — although he did receive an offer from Michigan State this week. The junior defensive tackle is rated a 5-star recruit by Scout and 247 Sports. He is rated as the fifth-best prospect overall in the Class of 2015 and the nation’s top defensive line prospect by ESPN.

He’s getting so many college letters that the mailmen don’t bother to put them in the mailbox anymore. They bring the stack to the front door of Thompson’s home.

“He watches a lot of film, and he’s been able to mimic some of their moves,” Westover coach Octavia Jones said. “Defensive line coach Jeff Hudson played in the NFL, and he’s done a tremendous job with Trenton. It’s fun watching these guys come in as ninth-graders when they’re like kindergardeners. It’s fun watching them develop and grow.”

Thompson has certainly developed. He has always had the frame to garner college attention. However, the prospect now has the statistics to go along with his size. So far this season, Thompson has registered 28 total tackles, including 13 for loss and seven quarterback sacks for the 3-2 Patriots.

He was a key reason for the Patriots’ 14-9 victory over Cairo last Friday. He finished with eight tackles, including four for loss and two quarterback sacks.

While his presence is often intimidating on the field, away from the game, the junior is popular. His grandmother nicknamed him “Jolly” because of his smile and his demeanor. In fact, Thompson may be known as much for his pranks as his athletic ability.

“I’m a people person, and I love being around my teammates,” he said. “I’ve poured water on my teammates when they weren’t expecting it. I love taking my teammates’ phones. We’ve got a teacher named Mr. Perkins who takes up phones. Some of my teammates will ask if I’ve seen their phone, and I’ll tell them I haven’t seen it and they should probably go see Mr. Perkins.

“Then I’ll put their phone back in their locker. I love having fun.”

Football may be relaxing right now but as his game progresses, the stress of recruiting will eventually weigh on him. His mother, Bridgett Fluellen, constantly preaches academics to him.

“She will be a big part of my decision,” Thompson said. “She doesn’t want me to go to college far off, but as long as I get my degree, I don’t think she will care.”

For now, Thompson will continue to fine-tune his game. He knows he could be the most celebrated high school football player to come out of Dougherty County. But he wants to stay level-headed. And grounded.

His middle school coach, Avondale King, who has since retired from Merry Acres Middle School, told Thompson to practice hard because if practice was hard, the games would come easy.

Then his mother has encouraged her son to make good choices and that one mistake has the potential to break his career.

“I’ve always wanted to make a name for myself,” Thompson said. “I know a lot of people look up to me, and I don’t want to let them down.”