Cleared For Take Off - Wildcat wide receiver ready to make up for lost time.
K-State football coach Bill Snyder openly says that his first impression of Tramaine Thompson was cautious … at best … upon his arrival in the fall of 2009 out of Jenks, Okla.
“At first, I was not overly impressed with what he was doing, and then all of a sudden in the (2010) out-of-season program he started to catch my eye,” said the Wildcat coach. “He carried on from that point on and became a viable starter and really fine player.”
How, and why, did the light finally click?
“I can’t tell you,” said Snyder. “It would be a guesstimate that he realized that he needed to step up and become a better player to fit in here. Did he all of a sudden acquire more talent? No, but part of it was bettering his practice habits.”
On the turn-around subject, Thompson said, “It was just getting a little more confident in the offense. When we started spring ball last year, I was just making plays. A lot of this offense is just feeling it, so once you start getting more accustomed to it you just gel a little better with the quarterbacks.”
Plus, the 5-foot-7, 164-pound Thompson admits that he was “wide-eyed” when he first arrived on campus. “Once I calmed down, I was OK. At my size, I’m looking up at everybody, so it was an eye-opening experience.”
Thompson caught 19 balls in the first seven games last year, which included single-game highs of five snags against Kansas, plus receptions for 87 yards against Central Florida. His number of catches ranks fifth on the all-time KSU list for a freshman.
The opportunity for even more statistics ended at mid-season when we landed wrong after going up for a pass. With a Baylor defender rolling on his leg, Thompson tore ligaments in his ankle and suffered a fractured fibula.
Thompson did everything in his power to be healthy enough to play in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl against Syracuse, but it wasn’t meant to be.
“I would come in here in the morning and do a little contrast between the hot and the cold tub,” said Thompson, who also returned 13 punts for a 7.4-yard average before the injury. “I would do some stretching. I was trying to get some more strength back in my calf because it was really weak from not being on it for awhile.”
Thompson was in his No. 86 KSU uniform for the Pinstripe Bowl and says it was a “game time decision” as to whether he would play or not.
“I was in uniform and warmed up just in case,” Thompson said. “I knew it wouldn’t be for a full game, but I wanted to know how it felt to play in a bowl game.”
Thompson said he would have been at 85 percent on Dec. 30, but is 100 percent today. Or as he put it, “Everything is cool now.”
Cool for himself, cool for Brodrick Smith, who also missed the second half of the 2010 season due to an injury, and cool for a healthy Chris Harper as the trio returns as K-State’s starting X, Y, Z receivers.
“I think we can do a lot of things to make plays as a receiving corps because we have a lot of experience and size returning,” said Thompson of his 6-1, 225 pound (Harper) and 6-1, 209 pound (Smith) teammates. “I think those things will be big for us this year.”
For Thompson, it’s another season to prove to a handful of Big 12 teams that took a look at him, but said, “A lot of them said I wasn’t big enough to play in the Big 12. That just added fuel to my fire.”