LOGAN, Utah – While there are always players with connections and similarities on football rosters, Utah State seniors Jake Thompson and Brock Warren have seen a lot of the same pages. Both Cache Valley natives, the special teams veterans will leave USU with valuable life experience. Throughout the latter part of their football careers, Warren and Thompson have both battled through disappointment and injuries, fighting through the challenges to become stronger people and players.
For Thompson, the battles started during his senior season at Logan (Utah) High School. Just three games into the season, he tore his ACL, an injury that would prove to dictate the next few years. Utah State was the only collegiate program to maintain its offer to Thompson, an offer he was glad to accept.
“I came up here and started as a freshman, playing with my brother (Josh). I grew up here watching Utah State football, so it was a dream come true to play here,” Thompson said. “It means a lot to be here. “I’ve seen where this program has been and where it’s come. Being able to play in front of your hometown on Saturdays is a really cool experience.”
Though the knee injury took its toll on Thompson, he fought through the rehabilitation process to have a successful freshman year with the Aggies.
“Coming out of high school with an ACL injury isn’t easy,” Thompson said. “My first year here I kicked with a knee brace, which was an interesting adjustment. Everything went well and it’s been a good ride.”
Warren’s struggles came a little bit later. He came to Utah State for the 2012 season, winning the starting kicker position. Though football was never part of his plan – he didn’t start playing until his junior year at Sky View – Warren was grateful for the opportunity to be playing in his hometown.
“It’s huge to be a part of Utah State football and it means a lot to me,” Warren said. “It was nerve-racking at first because I knew so many people in the crowd at games. Having that support group means a ton to me. I love it.”
After helping the Aggies to wins over Southern Utah and Utah in the first two weeks of the year, Warren suffered a season-ending groin injury while preparing for a game at Wisconsin. The recovery was slow, as Warren had to fight through not only the injury, but some changes among the USU coaching staff.
“The next year, I was probably only at 70 percent, so coach (Dave) Ungerer didn’t get to see me at my full potential, which set me back another year,” Warren said. “Then finally last year, I won the spot again and had a pretty decent season.”
Though he joined the Aggies as a walk-on, Warren had been told he’d be put on scholarship after earning the starting position after his first fall camp. He earned a medical redshirt for the remainder of his freshman season, then used a regular redshirt the next year. He did not see any action as a sophomore in 2014, but returned to the field for the 2015 campaign. After fall camp that year, Warren received the scholarship he’d set out to earn.
“It was a struggle. It was more frustrating than anything,” Warren said. “When I won the starting spot my freshman year, I was told I’d get put on scholarship, so things were looking up. Then my injury set me back two years. I stayed patient and worked heavily on my fundamentals and that paid off.”
As he worked through the years without seeing any time in games, Warren was able to develop as a player and improve his skills. By the time he returned to action as a junior, he had perfected his kick and showed that in his consistency. For the 2015 season, Warren was 39-of-41 on extra points, which ranks tied for fifth in school history for a single season in extra points made and fifth for extra point attempts.
With such specific, limited roles in games, kickers like Warren and Thompson know they need to take advantage of their time on the field. Like any player, these two have their routines and habits to get them through the play.
“It’s definitely an adrenaline rush,” Thompson said. “A lot of times I get a little too amped and just have to take a couple deep breaths. The atmosphere at Maverik Stadium has changed a lot over the years and it’s just fun to experience. You just have to dial into the moment and seize your opportunity.”
For Warren, the process is all about focusing the fundamentals and basics that he has spent so much time improving.
“It’s pretty simple, and you’ve heard it a thousand times, but you just have to trust your fundamentals. It’s so true,” Warren said. “I just trust myself and the work I’ve put in, I trust the snap and the hold, then I just do what I’ve done a million times.”
Growing up as cross-town rivals, Thompson and Warren have since used their similar experiences and skills to develop a competitive friendship. Though the pair have spent their collegiate careers battling for time on the field, they have overcome that to stay friends.
“It’s been hard because you’re competing against each other. You want to be enemies, but as soon as football is over, you’re best friends. It’s been a lot of fun,” Warren said. “Going into this last year, I’d say our friendship is better than it’s ever been.”
As they prepare for lives outside of the gates of Maverik Stadium, Warren and Thompson are grateful for the opportunities and lessons provided from a football career.
“It’s all about hard work,” Warren said. “If you actually put in the effort and have the work ethic, you’ll go places. If your time isn’t given to you when and how you want it, you have to stay patient and make the most of the time that it is.”
Warren graduated last December with a degree in sociology and is working on a second bachelor’s in family, consumer and human development. He plans to pursue a career in forensic interviewing.
Thompson is heading for the business world, as he will graduate next May with a degree in business administration.
“I’ve learned a lot about adversity. Not everything in life is fair,” Thompson said. “The business world is a lot like a football team. You’re on a team, you have to trust each other to work together and be effective. You have to get along with others. Having that bond and chemistry here on the field is crucial.”
While things may not have gone the way each player anticipated at first, Thompson and Warren have made the most of their time as Aggies. Fighting through injuries and life changes, the two have taken their challenges and will continue to use the experiences to their benefit through their lives off the field.