Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

August 14, 2012

Thompson is strong force for G-Men

BLUEFIELD — Football players are developed in the offseason. It is doubtful many developed more than Michael Thompson.

Thompson, a senior defensive end and fullback for the Graham G-Men, spent much of the past year in the weight room, and it shows.

“In this offseason we tested our kids in weight-lifting way back in November,” Graham second year head coach Mike Williams said. “In that course of time he was able to increase his floor lift total by more than 300 pounds, which is remarkable.”

Despite standing just 5-foot-9, Thompson gets everything he can out of his 201-pound frame, earning All Region C honors last season on defense, with an eye toward doing even better this season ... on both sides of the ball.

“I am hoping to get all-state,” Thompson said. “I am going to go for all-state and get a lot of rushing yards.”  

Soon after last season came to an end with a 5-6 record and a Division 2 playoff appearance, Thompson went back to work, adding on 20 pounds of  muscle and strength as the G-Men’s season opener approaches with Bluefield on Aug. 24.

“He has got great speed and great strength, he works like a dog,” Williams said. “We lifted today, and I like to sit and watch and see who does what and he was getting after it in the weight room.

“He wasn’t in there killing time, he is a great worker, he is a good player to have on the team.”

That work has paid dividends for Thompson, who has added those 300-plus pounds in a weight-lifting regiment that includes a combination of bench press, squat, power-clean and deadlift.

“If you push that stuff like that it will get you strong.” he said.

Real strong. That extra strength should pay benefits this season as Thompson sees lots of playing time on both sides of the ball.

“It is really tough, but I get out there and get it done,” Thompson said. “It is a tough job overall.”

Thompson made the step up from junior varsity prior to last season, which isn’t like a move from high school to college, but it still a step up in competition.

“It was different definitely because my sophomore year I played JV, I played some varsity too, but varsity is way different level than JV,” Thompson said. “You have to step it up a little bit.

“I was practicing with the varsity (as a sophomore) so I was used to hitting bigger kids so it really wasn’t that big of a step. It felt good to play varsity, but it wasn’t that big of a step.”

Graham made the transition with the addition of Williams as head coach last summer. The G-Men rebounded from a 1-9 record in 2010 to a 5-6 mark last season and return to the postseason.

“It was tough because some coaches were leaving and going in and out so it was kind of tough,” Williams said. “Once we got a new coaching staff, everything just seemed to fall into hand.”

The expectations this season are possibly higher than they’ve been in recent seasons, but the G-Men know any improvements will have to be shown on the field, not in just words of encouragement.

“We really think we are going to do good,” Thompson said. “I think we have got it. I don’t think we have looked this good in a long time.

“I think we will be pretty good this year.”  

Graham will compete in a jamboree at Virginia High on Thursday, taking on the Bearcats, Lee High School and Gate City.

That will be followed eight days later by the Beavers, and the G-Men will be ready.

“We just have to practice hard, and just hit and be ready,” Thompson said. “Just go there and be ready for them.”

They plan to be prepared for the rest of the schedule too, which includes five AA or AAA schools before beginning the rugged five-game Mountain Empire District slate that includes possible favorites Grayson County, Galax and Fort Chiswell.

“I would say we will do a lot better this year than we did last year,” Thompson said. “I am ready for it, we have been training a lot harder than we did last year and I think we will be ready.”

The path to success is never easy to navigate, but working hard has never been a deterrent to thinking big at Graham. Real big.

“Definitely want to go upstate, I want a ring,” said Thompson, whose G-Men have won three state championships, with the last one coming in 1995. “We need to get a ring, we haven’t had one in years. We just need one.”

— Contact Brian Woodson at bwoodson@bdtonline.com

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