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The 'Go To' Viking

Valencia tailback gets his share of the glory for winning football team

Posted: October 30, 2008 9:37 p.m.
Updated: January 1, 2009 5:00 a.m.

Valencia running back Jordan Thompson leads the Foothill League in rushing yards with 1,039. He has scored 15 touchdowns and is one of the catalysts for a Vikings team that is 2-0 in league, 6-1 overall.

 

"Don't give him the ball," one Canyon high spectator mumbled to himself.

His sentiment was aimed at Valencia High running back Jordan Thompson, who looked unstoppable in the two schools' first Foothill League matchup on Oct. 17.

Dismayed Cowboys fans, watched the 5-9 tailback deliver his best performance of the season against the Canyon defense, racking up 310 yards on 22 carries in that contest.

As he sits on the field of Vikings stadium in his No. 33 jersey tattered from defenders attempts to stop him, Thompson recalls a time when he wasn't always the preeminent player.

Last season, he stood the sidelines as senior running back Nick Hale received all the glory in the Vikings backfield as Valencia's go-to guy; its No. 1 running back.

In Thompson's mind, however, he always knew his time would come.

When Hale went down mid-season with a knee injury, Valencia running back/defensive ends coach Dave Padilla had to make a decision on whether he would give the budding tailback a chance.

"I really wasn't sure if Jordan was ready," Padilla said. "I didn't know if he was ready for the speed of the game."

And in the Vikings matchup against Westchester of Los Angeles, Thompson made a believer out of Padilla. He shined and from that moment on Padilla knew he was working with someone special.

"After that game I said, ‘Okay, I have nothing to worry about.'"

Thompson's passion for the game started at an early age. At 6-years-old, football turned from a hobby to a passion.

"I always loved playing and watching football," he said. "Both of my parents have always encouraged me. My dad was very motivational for me. He told me to stick with it and play my best. My dad was always good at discipline and it made me a better person."

Thompson recalled being a stand-out performer on his youth football teams. Padilla, who knew Thompson prior to joining the Vikings, said he has a natural talent.

But by the time Thompson entered his freshman season at Valencia, he got a glimpse of the harsh reality of only being second best. He struggled to find his identity amongst a number of talented athletes.

By the second half of his sophomore season, Thompson's began to see a turnaround.

No longer content with his play on the field, he made significant progress in the offseason.

"My work habits increased and I stayed focused each week," he said. "I was playing my hardest and knew what I needed to do and not get distracted."

Those efforts as a sophomore carried over to his junior year and when he got the call to step in for an injured Hale, he proved he was a force to be reckoned with.

At the end of the 2007 season, the Vikings' devastating 29-28 loss to Newbury Park in the CIF-Southern Section quarterfinal playoffs served as motivation for Thompson as he entered his senior season.

"We were so close," he said. "I just told myself ‘alright another year to go'. I want to get us one step further."

Thompson's workout regiment in the spring of 2008 went into overdrive.

Focused more than ever to get his team a spot in the CIF finals and a Foothill League title, Thompson's work began in January.

He worked with Padilla on the fundamentals. Thompson was determined to be a leader on the team.

"I told myself this was my year, this was my year to shine."

Thompson has led the Vikings to a 2-0 Foothill League start (6-1 overall) making Valencia a legitimate contender in CIF's Northern Division where the team currently sits at No. 5 on the polls. The senior tailback currently leads the league in rushing with 1,039 yards on 140 carries and 15 touchdowns for the Vikings.

"As he's matured his work ethic has gone up," Padilla said. "He always wanted to work and I just gave him the tools. He did all the work."

Although soft-spoken and laid back, Thompson said he's a different person on Friday night under the lights; a beast in competition.

"I'm really competitive and sometimes I get too emotional," he said.

Padilla agrees.

"When it comes to game day, a light goes on and he turns into some else."

Thompson is a feared rusher in the league. He said he doesn't really pay attention to what other guys around town are doing.

His focus is on his own progress.

"He's not affected by outside forces and doesn't take into account what this guy does and what that guy does," Padilla added.

The skills are there, and Thompson established himself as one of the best running backs around. And the elusive Thompson is in no way showing signs of stopping any time soon.

"He can go as far as he wants," Padilla said. "As long as he continues to work the way he does, the sky's the limit."

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