The man who might lead South Carolinas football team onto the field for one or more games this year, the man who did lead them to a win against Clemson a year ago, is hoping he and his teammates can be less motivated by final scores in 2013.
Hold on. Before you cross Dylan Thompson off your personal USC quarterback depth chart, hear him out.
So many guys get stuck on performance, the Gamecocks junior quarterback says. If we can just get off being performance based Everybody is going to ask, Can you win? Can you lose? Are you doing good for me? Are you doing bad for me? Just work on being the best we can be. Then, I think our team will be better because of it. If we just focus on going out and doing our job versus (thinking about), Am I going to start, am I not going to start?
That question will be asked plenty of Thompson between now and Aug. 29, when South Carolina opens the season against North Carolina in Williams-Brice Stadium. The 6-foot-3, 212-pound Boiling Springs native is competing with starter Connor Shaw for playing time and is getting most of the snaps this spring because Shaw is sidelined by a foot injury.
I just expect us to get great play from the quarterback, whoever that is, Thompson said. We are in great hands with either guy.
Coach Steve Spurrier expects both quarterbacks to play, he has said several times. For now, Thompson is not thinking about the starting job, and hes hoping he wont be in the fall. Hes more worried about filling the leadership void left by former teammate, friend and fellow Upstate native Marcus Lattimore.
Leadership is what Marcus was so good at, Thompson said. He didnt care if you were a walk-on or a three-year starter, he was going to treat you the exact same way, and thats what I am trying to do now.
Like Lattimore, Thompson is a devout Christian and quick to share his faith, which is what he credits with helping him move past an obsession with outcome.
This out here has nothing to do with my relationship with Christ, he said. You can put so much pressure on yourself. Coach isnt happy with me right now so I am so down. You have to look at different things to keep your level of joy up. I think that has a huge impact on everything I do.
It didnt always. When he arrived in 2010, he approached the game and himself much differently, he said.
I think all I cared about when I got here was, am I going to play, he said. That is kind of drilled into you. I wanted to be seen then as the guy who was on the front of the newspaper, the guy getting all the attention. Now, if it happens, it happens. If it doesnt, it doesnt. Thats kind of the way I look at it.
Thompson was one of the few that expected a lot out of himself when he arrived on campus. A two-star recruit who the Gamecocks offered after seeing him at a summer camp, Thompson had one other scholarship offer, and that was from Furman.
He was big, athletic, size 15 shoe, kind of didnt know really what he would end up being, quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus said. Thought he could be a bunch of things, but we knew he was a good athlete. Hes got that it and that want to and that drive. He was just very raw. I am very proud of him.
Thompsons first two years went as most expected, a redshirt season in 2010 and a mop-up job in 2011, when he threw two passes in four games. Then came last season and injuries to Shaws shoulder and then foot.
The first time Thompson was thrust into action, against Vanderbilt in the season-opener, things went poorly, but it got better from there. He finished the season 66-of-127 for 1,027 yards, 10 touchdowns and two interceptions with a win against Clemson and a last-minute, game-winning touchdown pass against Michigan in the Outback Bowl on his resume.
Confidence, thats the name of the game playing QB, Mangus said. The East Carolina and the UAB games are when he started to get the confidence because he struggled against Vanderbilt, struggled mightily, then all of a sudden some good things happened to him in those games, and he got some confidence. He gets asked to play against Clemson and had a heck of a day. I think that confidence has carried over here to spring.
Thompson agreed that his confidence is much higher now that at this time a year ago. He also understands the game better, or at least processes it faster, he said.
I see coverage and I pretty much know what they are in, he said.
The right-hander is working this spring on improving his mechanics when throwing to the left side of the field, where his completion percentage was low last year.
This school is paying for me to go here. They are literally paying me money to be here so I am going to give them every ounce of energy I have, he sad. Thats what I think I owe them. Thats what Im going to try to do. If thats me being the starter, if thats not me being the starter.