On the first day of the 2017 NFL Draft, Valencia grad Tedric Thompson was gathered with family, friends, former coaches and his high school academic counselor, Theresa Long.
“She’s the one who really deserves this credit,” Thompson said Sunday at the Vereen Playmakers Football Camp at Valencia High. “Because I used to struggle in school, and she was always on my side. She really deserves the credit.”
When he got the call that he was drafted to the Seattle Seahawks in the fourth round, Thompson cried. Long cried harder.
“I said, ‘It happened. This is what we’ve been working so hard for. And it happened,’” Long said. “It wasn’t all in vain. This hard work for the past six years. It was a really good feeling.”
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When Long met Thompson, she says his academic future was questionable. But she saw “something very special” in him and worked with Laura Lorenze, of Valencia Tutors Learning Center, to get him back on track academically.
Thompson took extra classes during the day and in the evening, with Long by his side for encouragement.
“That tenacity he showed on the football field, he put into his academics and he pulled it off,” Long said.
When he got to the University of Colorado, Thompson texted Long grade-by-grade updates on how he was doing in his classes. He invited her and her husband to watch him play football and visited with her at the tailgate parties afterward.
As the draft approached, NFL scouts came to Valencia High School to dig deeper into Thompson’s character. Long met with representatives from the Denver Broncos and the Los Angeles Rams.
Of course, she gave Thompson a glowing review.
“In my 35 years as an educator, he’s my all-time favorite young man,” Long said. “I just saw what he can do and no one had been paying attention to his academics up to (that) point (when I met him).”
Thompson is living in Seattle, but is currently staying with his mom and training in Valencia for a short period of time.
He had a successful Seahawks minicamp, where he worked alongside fellow safety and role model Earl Thomas.
“I kind of got that feeling of starting all over again,” Thompson said. “Basically a freshman in college trying to learn from the older guys and trying to learn from the vets.
“Earl Thomas, I used to look up to him when I was in high school when I was playing (at Valencia). Being in the same building as him and being able to pick his brain and stuff like that, it’s another blessing that God gave me.”
Whether he realizes it or not, he’s already someone’s Earl Thomas. Long has invited him to speak to current Vikings on the importance of succeeding both athletically and academically.
“We have (athletes) that will probably have this potential and they want to be just like Tedric,” said Long. “For him to come talk to kids and say, ‘It’s not easy, work hard,’ because of where he’s at right now, (it’s amazing). That’s just the type of person he is.”