Shaq Thompson Sours on Running Back, Safety, Wants to Play Linebacker

Thompson is the Paul Hornung Award winner, named after the former Packers great, given to the nation's most versatile player.

Washington linebacker Shaq Thompson—Brian Carriveau, CheeseheadTV.com.

Washington linebacker Shaq Thompson—Brian Carriveau, CheeseheadTV.com.

Shaq Thompson walked up to the podium for his press conference at the NFL Combine and the first two words out of his mouth were "Outside linebacker."

That didn't bode well for a team like the Green Bay Packers, particularly in need of an inside linebacker, especially if Thompson was going to be stubborn about it.

Thompson wasn't stubburn, however. He softened his stance, except for questions about playing on offense.

"Running back is out of the question," said Thompson.

The Washington product thinks he fits best as an outside linebacker, but he's open to playing other positions, namely inside linebacker and safety.

Thompson talked about how he played Will linebacker in a 3-4 defense at Washington this past season and how teams have talked to him about doing the same in the NFL.

Reluctantly, he'll even listen to teams about playing safety.

"I’m gonna put it out there that I want to play linebacker," said Thompson. "But I can’t say no to that."

Some, like Mike Mayock of the NFL Network, think Thompson's best fit as someone that checks in at 6' 0" and 228 lbs. is at safety.

"I know GMs were looking at him as a running back, linebacker, and safety, most teams as a linebacker," said Mayock. "I've got him as a safety. I think he can be a Kam Chancellor type on first down in your base and then drop down and play linebacker in your dime, and that's really important in today's world."

It's a credit to Thompson he's even in the conversation to play so many positions.

The Paul Hornung Award winner as the nation's most versatile player, named after the former Packers running back and kicker, has talent to burn. Thompson will be formally honored Tuesday evening at a ceremony taking place in Hornung's native Louisville.

Consider that Thompson scored six touchdowns in 2014 and four of them came on the defensive side of the football. It's almost hard to believe, but every turnover Thompson got his hands on this past season, he took it to paydirt. That's three fumble recoveries and one interception return, all to the endzone.

When Washington encountered the injury bug and was low on running back depth, Thompson made a near full-time transition to offense for three consecutive contests in Games 8 through 10 of the season. In those three games, each against Pac-12 competition, Thompson rushed for 98 yards, 174 yards and 100 yards.

Once the Huskies found some stabilization at the position, Thompson made the switch back to linebacker for the final four games of the season, the same place he plans to play in the NFL.

As for the type of player his new employer will be getting, Thompson has appropriate comparison.

"Lavonte David," said Thompson. "He’s a little bit taller than me but same attributes, same speed, can over tight ends and running backs. I feel like I can do the same thing.

When David was coming out of college, he was considered much the same type of player as Thompson, an ideal fit as a 4-3 outside linebacker, a role he currently fills with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

David has been so good, so productive for the Bucs, however, it's hard to believe he couldn't fit on any NFL team, even inside in a 3-4 system.

And that's exactly why the Packers can't afford to overlook Thompson should he somehow be available with the 30th overall selection in first round of the draft.

It's perhaps not likely Thompson falls to the end of the first round, but the draft is unpredictable. 

Concerns exist that might cause him to drop, but according to the linebacker himself, he has traits that overcome any limitations caused by his smaller stature.

"I feel like size doesn’t matter," said Thompson. "There were a couple of times where I didn’t get off blocks, but there were other times when I did. If you’re a playmaker, you’re gonna make a play regardless, whether you’re getting blocked or not getting blocked. That’s part of my game I need to tighten up and I’m getting better at it."

 

Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor at Cheesehead TV and its "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email [email protected].

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Comments (4)

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Allan Murphy's picture

February 25, 2015 at 11:00 am

He gone when Packer pic @30

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Evan's picture

February 25, 2015 at 12:12 pm

I imagine him and Matthews wreaking havoc from all over the field. Love his versatility.

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pooch's picture

February 25, 2015 at 03:51 pm

Hawk gone

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NitschkeFan's picture

February 25, 2015 at 09:38 pm

Seems like he would be a great addition to the Packers D.

His versatility may or may not be something they could capitalize on. Has anyone played a 3-3-5 regularly? (3 DL, 3 LB, 5 DB's with Thompson being a hybrid LB/SS).

Obviously can do it in a "nickel" formation, but if you have the right players maybe a guy like Shaq can let you be more effective in run stopping even with 5 DBs on the field on first and second downs?

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