Sooner-turned-Ute Kendal Thompson is eager to prove himself
SALT LAKE CITY — Kendal Thompson put Oklahoma in the rearview mirror earlier this week. With his girlfriend and 2-year-old daughter in the car, the Sooner-turned-Ute made the drive to Utah — making it to Albuquerque the first day and Salt Lake City the second.
After graduating early from Oklahoma, Thompson was headed to his new college football home — joining the quarterback mix at Utah, where he’ll be immediately eligible and have two years to play.
Upon arrival, Thompson will be immersed into the Utes’ summer development program. It’s the first official step in his bid to win the starting job over incumbent Travis Wilson and a pool of candidates that includes Adam Schulz, Conner Manning, Brandon Cox and true freshman Donovan Isom.
“My mindset is to go in and do what I’m capable of doing. Those other guys are going to be competitive, not only Travis but the other group of quarterbacks as well,” Thompson said. “Competition brings out the best in everyone. So I’m looking forward to the competition and just trying to come in and do what I can in order to elevate the level of the program.”
Thompson, who saw limited action at Oklahoma because of a broken foot, is bringing a focused approach to his new surroundings.
“I think the main thing with me is getting on the same page as my teammates as far as continuity with the receivers and getting a great relationship with my offensive line,” said Thompson.
As far as the mental aspect of joining a new program, Thompson added that he has been looking at Utah’s playbook and Hudl, the online video service.
“So I feel pretty up to par as far as that goes, but obviously there’s a big difference in looking at stuff mentally and actually going out there and doing it physically,” Thompson said. “So I think that transition will take a little bit. But other than that, I think things will go smoothly.”
The task, Thompson acknowledged, will be easier after earning his bachelor’s degree — fulfilling a promise he made to his mother. He’ll enroll in a graduate school program at Utah this fall.
“That was the main priority this past semester, making sure I did everything I needed to do as far as the academics in order to come up here and give myself a chance to be successful when I get to Utah,” Thompson said.
Football, he continued, is his main focus now.
Thompson wants to develop “kind of that telepathic awareness” where he knows what a guy is going to do before he actually does it. The 6-foot-1, 199-pound quarterback visited Utah for a week during spring ball and has a pretty good understanding of the team’s personnel.
There’s much more to it, however.
“At the end of the day it comes down to coming out and proving your worth,” said Thompson’s father, Charles, a motivational speaker who was Oklahoma’s starting quarterback in 1987-88 before leaving the program following a scandal. “Proving how good you are, proving you deserve the opportunity, and proving that you’re willing to earn the respect.”
Charles shared some “old-school advice” with his son about the challenges ahead. He encouraged him to earn the respect of the football team just as he did at Oklahoma.
It starts, Charles said, with your buddies and developing a camaraderie with your teammates. Then, showing the coaches that you have the mental fortitude, character and all the traits to get the job done. Third comes winning over the fans. The latter, he noted, falls into place when the first two things come into place.
“That’s the philosophy and the concept that Kendal will begin with when he steps on campus,” Charles said.
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