Trent Thompson is a great football player from Albany. Not only is he the top-rated member of the University of Georgia’s 2015 recruiting class, he’s also considered the No. 1 player at any position in America.
That’s according to 247Sports.com’s composite rankings, which average the evaluations of all the national recruiting services to come up with one overall rating. Some others who earned the No. 1 distinction: Jadeveon Clowney, Leonard Fournette, Robert Nkemdiche, Vince Young.
Most people know that about Thompson. What they don’t know is just who is Trent Thompson.
When discussions shift to that subject, the 6-foot-3, 313-pound defensive lineman said there are only two things one needs to know: First, he’s his “Grandma’s boy;” second, and not unrelated, his success is a result not just of talent, but of work ethic.
Both are the result of the influence of his grandmother, Shirley Flewellen.
“Mama Shirley” bought Thompson a push lawn mower when he was a wee lad of 12 years old. In the age of X-Box and iPhones, that may seem an odd gift for an adolescent. But it was Flewellen’s answer to her grandson’s request.
“I told her I wanted money, so she said, ‘you’ve got to go out and work for it,’” Thompson said this past week. “So she bought me a lawn mower, and I’ve been cutting yards since age 12. I’ve been making my own money. Nobody gave it to me.”
Thompson said he’d walk to the corner store in East Albany and buy his own gas. Over time, he built up a small clientele, which would pay him $10 to $20 a pass, depending on the size of their lots.
Soon, he expanded his little enterprise. He’d rake leaves in the fall. He’d collect aluminum cans. He’d catch chickens for local poultry farmers.
“That’s why I’m so fast,” Thompson joked, “chasing them chickens.”
But for Thompson, this wasn’t about football. This was about following the lead of his grandmother and grandfather (Eddielee Flewellen), and his mother, Bridget Flewellen. It was about earning his keep through hard work.
Both his grandmother and his mother have worked for years at Coats & Clark, a manufacturing and distribution operation in Albany. As a preteen, Thompson said he’d hop into his grandfather’s truck on Saturday mornings and go wrangle chickens.
Those individuals provided the foundation on which Trent Thompson, Inc., was built.
“I did it all myself,” Thompson said of his business. “As long as I had a little money in my pocket I was fine. I just wanted to be able to get something if I wanted it.”
Turns out, that philosophy translated well to Thompson’s football pursuits.
When he showed up on the scene at Westover High as a rapidly growing ninth-grader, coach Octavia Jones knew he had a player with great potential. But he needed to get him into the weight room to add pounds and strength.
Little could he have known then with whom he was dealing. Not only did Thompson do what he was asked, he went over and beyond when it came to the Patriots’ workout obligations.
“I think that’s why he has continued to get better and will keep getting better,” Jones said. “He understands what it took to get to this point and what it’s going to take for him to excel at the next level. He’s just extremely hungry and ready to get to Athens and get after it and make a name for himself.”
Thompson had done that by the summer before his senior season, achieving the No. 1 overall national ranking of 247Sports and ESPN among others. However, he chose to pass up on the opportunity to compete in the Oregon Nike Camp and other national camps. There were yards and other matters to attend at home in Albany.
By the time the football season started, Thompson’s ranking had dropped. He was still a consensus top-10 prospect, but no longer No. 1.
Thompson set out to change that when he went to San Antonio to participate in the U.S. Army All-America game. Competing against fellow four- and five-star prospects of similar size and stock in a week’s worth of practices and a nationally televised game, Thompson dominated.
“That was a business trip for him,” said Rusty Mansell, a recruiting analyst for 247Sports. “He was not there to make friends or play around. There was no half-speed for him, and he got into some physical altercations. It was a pride thing for him. He wanted to be No. 1.”
Last week, Thompson received the trophy that comes with the distinction of being the 247Sports Composite National Player of the Year.
“It’s justified, and I think he proved that,” Jones said.
As for Georgia, the Bulldogs were in on the phenomena that is Thompson way before the other guys. And that’s the primary reason Thompson plans to sign with the Bulldogs in a ceremony at Westover High at 4 p.m. Wednesday.
“They were my first offer, the first school I visited, the first coach that came down to meet me and tell me they wanted me at Georgia,” Thompson said. “So I’ve had my mind made up ever since the first time I visited on Junior Day.”
Thompson strung folks along for a while. He said it was primarily so he could help some of his teammates gain recruiting notice. And having never traveled farther than Florida in the past, he wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to get out of Albany and see some places. In addition to Georgia, he visited Tennessee, Auburn, Florida, Florida State and Georgia Tech. He also took a trip to USC in June.
But the trips only solidified what Thompson thought all along, that UGA was where he wanted to be. So on Aug. 12, he told his coach to call in the media and let them know he was ready to make his decision public.
The date of that announcement was not coincidental. It was the wedding anniversary of Shirley and Eddielee Flewellen. And while neither was there in person — Mama Shirley died in 2011, Eddielee four years earlier — they were there in spirit and in ink. Their names are tattooed on Thompson’s arms — and forever on his heart.
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