John Thompson was in Fayetteville for the Arkansas High School Coaches Association

Clinic. He’s visited his mother, who lives in Conway, and golfed in Hot Springs

before coming home to Forrest City to help host The Ralph.

The Arkansas Traveler has come home for awhile.

John Thompson was in Fayetteville for the Arkansas High School Coaches Association
Clinic. He’s visited his mother, who lives in Conway, and golfed in Hot Springs
before coming home to Forrest City to help host The Ralph.

The Ralph, teeing off at noon Monday at Forrest City Country Club after an 11 a.m.
luncheon, is the golf tournament John Thompson started to benefit the Fellowship of
Christian Athletes in honor of Ralph Thompson, his late father and a  longtime high
school coach.

Incidentally, John Thompson said despite announced deadlines, new entrants for The
Ralph will be taken right up to Monday’s noon tee time.

Thompson’s many towns homecoming doesn’t approach him being  one of the moving vans’
best customer of the decade.

Since the century’s turn, Thompson has been defensive coordinator at LSU,  Arkansas,
Florida, South Carolina and Ole Miss, head coach at East Carolina and athletics
director at the University of Central Arkansas.

In 2008  he became the ground floor  defensive coordinator at Georgia State.

That finally has allowed the Thompson family to unpack before GSU’s Sept. 2  game.
It’s GSU’s first football game since head coach Bill Curry was hired to start the
program shortly before hiring Thompson.

GSU practiced while others played last fall.

“It’s been two years since I have been on the field for a game,” Thompson said.  “In
the fall we had 60 practices which is like four springs of spring practice.  It went
well. It’s really been interesting with 70 freshmen on the field.  Now it’s time to
play.”

Well, first there is still a little summer play time in Arkansas left.

“I love coming home,” Thompson said. “It’s great to be in Arkansas.”

He fondly reviews his Razorbacks seasons in 1982 as a graduate assistant for Lou
Holtz and 2000 and 2001 as defensive coordinator under Houston Nutt.

“The best times of my coaching career,” Thompson said while en route from
Fayetteville to Hot Springs.  “I liked seeing those players last night. I still keep
up with (former Razorbacks) Jermaine Petty, Jermaine Brooks, Kenny Hamlin and Jeb
Huckeba.  Being a Razorback was not like any other place I promise you. In a  good
way - a  really good way.”

Thompson has about done and seen it all in a decade of being courted and canned. He
chose to leave some places, including Arkansas, for other opportunities. Others
ended on others' terms from losing his own 2-year regime at East Carolina to joining
faltering regimes on their way out.

Of all the jobs, being UCA’s AD presumably would have been the most stable. Thompson
said he just  wasn’t cut out for it,  even with his abiding love for his alma mater.

“I’ve got to coach,” Thompson said. “It was a great thing to be at UCA, but AD, it
was just a job. Coaching stays with you 24/7. Being AD, that’s not me. I am really
blessed and happy to be back in coaching.”

How truly blessed, Thompson has learned in the fledging, humble setting at Georgia
State in Atlanta after coordinating  in the SEC big time.

“Our first meeting we sat with our notebooks in our laps,” Thompson said.  “No
desks. One phone. No office. It was 803 days until our first game.”

Now GSU has a facility and offices and is about to debut.
In the meantime, Thompson learned the value of a truism for which he previously had
contempt.

“It’s been  good to coach and  not have to worry about winning and losing,” Thompson
said of assembling and practicing a team. “I used to get mad at those who would say,
‘This would be a great profession if it wasn’t for the games.’ I didn’t understand
that. But now I do. Now of course I am ready to compete and play some games. But
there is still a fun part of it of to see if we can get better and be good
students.”

The GSU football team’s 2.8 grade point average gets notice now that Thompson knows
it won’t get once defeats start mounting.

At least one  defeat seems coming to close the season. Georgia State’s rookies
finish Nov. 20 against national champion Alabama.

Thompson knows his head coach will keep it in perspective.

Bill Curry, whom Thompson assisted in 1987 at Alabama, was known even more as a
caring person than a successful coach at Georgia Tech before piloting Alabama and
Kentucky.

“He’s got his priorities straight,” Thompson said.  “It’s players and academics and
family. Now he can be a tough guy at the right times, but I am glad to be around him
and have my family around him, too.”