Kansas State quarterback Skylar Thompson on the mend and glad to be back
Senior quarterback ready to give it one more shot
The way Skylar Thompson sees it, he already has defied the odds.
And to think, he has the COVID-19 pandemic to thank.
Taking advantage of the NCAA decision granting players a free year of eligibility in light of the pandemic, Thompson is back from a season-ending injury and looking forward to a do-over as Kansas State's senior quarterback.
"You never know when your last snap is going to be," said Thompson, whose senior season ended prematurely on Oct. 3, in the third game, against Texas Tech. "Last year my biggest concern was getting COVID.
"I was scared of getting COVID and that (it) would take four games away from me or whatever the case may be, let alone having a season-ending injury in my throwing shoulder."
Not only is Thompson back in the saddle, but ahead of schedule, participating in all non-contact drills with the Wildcats this spring.
"I don't think the coaches or anybody was anticipating me to be in spring ball," Thompson. "In my mind, I was.
"I attacked my rehab every single day and didn't even think about, 'What if I'm not the same?' All those thoughts, whenever that came into my mind, I immediately took the time to flush that out."
The early signs are promising for Thompson, who has been the Wildcats' starting quarterback since his sophomore year. In fact, his physical limitations have been minimal.
"Pretty much anything that's passing game where he doesn't have an opportunity to get hit," offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham said. "If the (defensive) line is going, he's not in there. If we're doing that drill and he's going to take the rep, coach (Chris) Klieman will say, 'Hey, d-line guys are dead in this rep.'
"Just because we want him to have the ability to interact and play and do the passing game aspect, but obviously we're smart and we've got to follow what our athletic trainers talk to us about. He's not at all supposed to be in a contact position yet, but his ability to throw the football, I've been very impressed with how he's rehabbed and how they've done a nice job of getting him ready to throw the ball down the field."
While Thompson approached his rehabilitation with the idea that he would be good as new on the other end, he admitted to being apprehensive at first.
"It was scary, especially because it was my throwing arm," he said. "I think the biggest thing that scared me was just how was I going to be able to come back from it? Was I going to be the same, or what is this going to look like?"
"There were so many uncertainties throughout that process, some that I've never experienced before. With my injury, a lot of people said — the doctor even said — it was super rare to have somebody in my position to have what I experienced."
Teammates and coaches alike are just glad to have him back.
"It's always a true blessing," said junior wide receiver Malik Knowles. "Skylar's been here since I got here and is a great leader and great quarterback.
"He's one of those guys where, when he is in the huddle with you, he's going to push you. So just having that energy on the field back with us is going to be tremendous."
While several of last year's seniors chose not to return, Thompson said he never hesitated when afforded the opportunity by head coach Chris Klieman to give it another go.
His 2020 season ended just one week after leading K-State to a come-from-behind upset victory at Oklahoma, and he wanted more.
"To me it was an easy decision because I love football," Thompson said. "I love this game, and after that Oklahoma game, I had a lot of confidence, and I really felt like I was starting to really get into a groove mentally of how to approach a football game and how to handle myself throughout a game to best fit our football team and put us in good situations to win."
And that wasn't all.
"When it all got taken away from me, I believe that I still have my best football ahead of me," Thompson said. "My ultimate goal is to play at the next level, but that's not why I came back.
"I came back because I still feel like my best football here at K-State lies ahead. I want to finish on a high note at this university and leave it better than when I found it."
Thompson even learned something about himself along the way.
"Through this process, instead of caving in to getting into a shell and shutting everybody out, I’ve been very open to just trying to make the most out of the situation and using it to impact the people around me and not let the given situation take away from who I am as a person and not take the smile off my face," he said. "Because that's a big part of who I am.
"I'm always smiling, always happy and having a good time and trying to make the most out of every situation. Me getting hurt and not performing out there on the field doesn't define how I can show up in that aspect of life."