LOGAN, Utah – One fall night in 2008, Josh Thompson’s life changed for good. The evening had been spent playing in the Utah 3A All-Star football game, representing Logan (Utah) High School. He had a standout game and was out at dinner with his family to celebrate. His phone rang with an offer to play collegiate football.
Former Utah State head coach Gary Andersen had watched Thompson play in the game and was pleased with what he saw. Within a couple hours of the final buzzer, he decided to offer the placekicker a walk-on spot on his team.
Having originally signed with Snow College, Thompson was ecstatic to change his plans, stay close to home and play Division I football.
“I was born and raised in Logan, so I was excited to play for my hometown,” Thompson said. “It means a lot being from Logan High School. You want to represent not just your high school, but also Cache Valley. To show off our talents at the Division I level is very satisfying. It’s cool to be a part of that and represent the community.”
Being a local kid, Thompson has truly seen it all through Utah State football. He had been a fan in the stands of Romney Stadium through the ups and downs the program had through the 1990s.
Now as a senior and experienced insider of the USU program, he has seen first-hand the change the team has gone through.
“I went through all the pain of the tough seasons at Utah State as a kid,” Thompson said. “It’s been cool to see how the program has changed from when I was a little kid to now as a senior.”
Now at the end of his career, he is grateful for the growth he has been a part of, and the impact this class has had on the program.
“We were disappointed those first two seasons, but after that Hawai’i game in 2011, to winning last year’s bowl game, that win was the best moment of my time here,” Thompson said. “Not many kids in their college careers can say they went from one of the lowest ranked programs in the country to a top 25 program.”
Joining Thompson on the field this year is his younger brother Jake. The two are just far enough apart in age that they have never had the chance to play on the same team.
“We’ve never been on a team together since we’re four years apart. We never really got to play together anywhere,” Thompson said. “Being able to enjoy my senior season with him has been fun. I’m excited to see him have a great career as an Aggie.”
While several Aggie football players have gotten married during their time on the team, Thompson has spent most of his career trying to balance football and school, along with a marriage. He and his wife Alysha got married in June, 2011 and have spent the subsequent years figuring out how to make everything work.
“Our schedules never have an open time to actually see each other. It’s been hard, but it’s something we’ve been able to handle,” Thompson said. “The things we’re going through now are going to be good for us later in life.”
Thompson said the effort they’ve put into these two years has been crucial. For some, the craziness of school and sports and life would be too much to handle, but these two have found the positive sides of it and made it work.
“We’ve learned how to take care of each other, and it’s strengthened our marriage,” Thompson said. “You’d think it would have a negative effect, but it’s been good for us.”
As the lone senior among the Aggie kickers, Thompson hopes to use his experience as a way to lead the group to succeed.
“As a whole, it’s just meshing with the other guys and making sure they’re having a good time. It’s about knowing when it’s time to have fun and when we need to be serious,” Thompson said. “We’re there for one shot. I’m just trying to be that senior leader to help the guys stay upbeat and positive. I’ve been through a lot of these situations and it’s good to be able to be there for these guys.”
As a kicker, opportunities to contribute are limited. When a chance presents itself, the kicker has one shot. That one shot has the potential to make or break the game and can present a lot of pressure for the player. That pressure results in good experiences that can be relevant on and off the field.
“As a kicker, you’ve only got one shot. If you mess up or miss a kick, you can’t dwell on it. You can’t change what happened,” Thompson said. “That will be able to carry over into the business world. If you are given a responsibility and you can’t fulfill it, you better be able to respond in a positive way the next time. You have to look forward with focus and determination.”
No matter the playing time he gets or the time he contributes, Thompson is ready for whatever chances he gets.
“I’m not starting as a senior, but I’m just trying to be ready for that moment when I can get in. I want to help the team on and off the field,” Thompson said. “I want to be prepared for the unknown and when that opportunity presents itself, I want to take the best advantage of the opportunities and seize the moment.”
Thompson has taken full advantage of his opportunities on the field as he ranks fifth all-time in school history in extra points made (70), sixth in extra points attempted (72), and fifth in extra point percentage (.972), while setting single-season school records for both extra points made (57) and attempted (58) as a sophomore in 2011.
Off the field, Thompson will earn his bachelors degree in business administration this fall and is confident that all the life lessons he has learned at Utah State will make for an easier transition into the business world.