Cody Thompson certainly didn’t plan for his college football career to play out this way.
Going into what was supposed to be his final season as a Rocket in 2017, Thompson thought his future was clear. He was a standout wide receiver, a key part of a senior class that was expected to lead the Rockets to their first Mid-American Championship in 13 years. That last part did happen, as UT rolled through the conference season before clobbering Akron in the MAC title game.Thompson, however, was limited to cheering on his teammates from the sidelines. A leg injury against Eastern Michigan in early October ended his season and, seemingly, his college career. However, the Rockets’ win over the Zips did more than put the finishing touches on a championship year. It opened a door for another season with the Rockets for Thompson.
Toledo’s appearance in the 2017 MAC Championship Game gave the Rockets a total of 14 games played. Thanks to the formula that NCAA uses to calculate injury hardship appeals, that extra game meant that Thompson’s college football story would include an extra chapter. It’s not how he imagined his career would conclude, but he looked upon his injury as an opportunity.
“It was kind of tough at first because all I wanted was to have a healthy, successful senior year and win a MAC Championship. Everything played its part, except the injury,” Thompson said. “It was tough, but once I got over that and stopped feeling sorry for myself, I kind of buckled down and got to work. I understood that I had a second chance and was determined to give this year’s team everything I could.”
The continuation of Thompson’s Rocket career has been a blessing for both him and the Rockets. He has had another great season, catching 41 passes for 566 yards and 10 touchdowns. He has etched his name in the Toledo record books, breaking the school record for career TD catches with 30 and moving into second place in career receiving yards (3,231). Better still, his injured leg is 100 percent healthy.
From a team standpoint, Thompson’s return has greatly benefited a young team that has only 13 seniors, only nine of whom have been with the program for their entire college careers. Head Coach Jason Candle, for one, has been happy to have Thompson’s leadership for one more season.
“Cody is a picture of what you want your program to be about,” Candle said. “He leads off the field and on the field. He is a very high-effort guy who is very accountable for his own actions. Young people sometimes have a hard time grasping that, but Cody has always done everything we have asked him to do, and even things that we don’t ask him to do. You hope that the young guys on the team have paid attention to his actions and how he has approached his everyday routine. And when he is gone, you hope that someone can fill that role.”
A big part of Thompson’s leadership role has come off the field. An outstanding student, Thompson already has his bachelor’s degree in marketing and is very close to earning his master’s degree in recreation and leisure. He is a two-time Academic All-District selection. His commitment to volunteerism has made him Toledo’s nominee for numerous national awards, including the Wuerffel Trophy, the Campbell Trophy, the All State Good Works Award and the NCAA Senior Class Award.
“My parents raised me to be a selfless person and that’s how my high school coach [Tony Legando] was, as well,” Thompson said. “I was taught to put others above yourself and to do the most you can whenever you can. If you’re going to do something, give it your all because if you’re not, then you’re wasting your time and the time of everyone around you.”
Thompson certainly has not squandered his fifth season with the Rockets. The Rockets are 6-5 going into Friday’s game vs. Central Michigan, and Thompson and his teammates are looking to earn a berth into their fifth consecutive bowl game. Before that happens, however, Thompson is determined to make sure his 55th game in a Rocket uniform (a school record, of course) will be no different than the 54 that came before it.
“I’m going to leave it all on the field one last time,” he said, “for this city, for this University, and for this team.”