Proving people wrong

Back and knee injuries have not swayed Thompson's NFL goals

Updated: March 19, 2013, 3:34 PM ET
By David M. Hale | NoleNation

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- If next month's NFL draft comes and goes, and Chris Thompson never hears his name called, he'll be disappointed, but not deterred.

He's optimistic, as always, but the reality of consecutive season-ending injuries is difficult to ignore. Thompson knows why teams might view him as a risky investment, but he just doesn't agree with them.

[+] EnlargeChris Thompson
Robert Mayer/US PresswireInjury history could push Chris Thompson out of the NFL draft altogether.
"I understand the situation," Thompson said. "It may be a little disappointing if I don't get my name called on draft day, but I know in a week or two or three, I'll get a phone call, and then it'll be in my hands from there."

Thompson is convinced he'll be ready for the NFL in a few months, and he'll have the chance to sell teams on that belief Tuesday, when he will be among more than 30 former Seminoles participating in Florida State's annual pro day workouts (noon ET on ESPN3). For the first time since suffering a torn ACL in October, Thompson plans to run the 40-yard dash.

That's a major stepping-stone, but it's hardly the only hurdle. For Thompson, writing his future will be all about overcoming a past that includes two serious injuries, including a broken back that nearly ended his career in 2011.

Thompson's first tests came at the NFL's scouting combine last month. He knew the questions about his injury history were inevitable, and while he felt good about the progress he'd made in his rehab, he was nervous about how teams would respond.

As it turned out, Thompson was pleasantly surprised.

"They weren't talking about issues of being injury prone," Thompson said. "They just wanted to talk football, and I was able to get comfortable doing that."

Still, with his knee still far from healed, Thompson didn't participate in any running or agility drills. Besides, the knee wasn't that worrisome to the medical personnel.

"They've seen guys come back from ACLs now with no problem and come back stronger -- especially Adrian Peterson, he just made ACLs seem like a minor injury," Thompson said. "It was more concern about my back."

If the back was a worry, however, Thompson had an impressive answer. He could simply point to his game tape from last season.

In eight games before the knee injury, Thompson rushed for nearly 700 yards and was on pace to become FSU's first 1,000-yard back in 16 years. When his season came to an abrupt halt against Miami, it was a huge blow to both the Seminoles' offense and Thompson's future.

"It was frustrating for a while, just to see the type of season I was having and the success that the team was having also," Thompson said. "To go down like that again in back-to-back seasons, it was pretty frustrating."

While the back injury nearly convinced Thompson to give up football for good, the knee is little more than a minor obstacle. Thompson said he never doubted he'd recover fully.

The more immediate question at the time was whether the timing of the injury would derail his NFL draft stock, which led FSU coach Jimbo Fisher to suggest an unlikely alternative. Florida State appealed to the NCAA to get Thompson a fifth year of eligibility, despite the fact that the senior tailback didn't meet the usual requirements. It was a tempting possibility, Thompson said, but it was far from guaranteed.

The appeals process was slow, and by the time Florida State wrapped up its season with an Orange Bowl win on Jan. 1, Thompson had grown tired of waiting. He met with Fisher to discuss his future, and in the end, the decision was obvious.

"He pretty much told me that if I was able to heal up and come back and play the whole year, it would boost my draft stock," Thompson said. "But I was just ready. I felt like it was time for me to move on."

Thompson said he's happy with the decision, but it's left him in something of a precarious situation as draft day approaches. His injury history offers reasons for skepticism, and the knee injury is keeping him from disproving those doubts.

"Everybody's in a wait-and-see until they see how the injury turns out," Fisher said. "But I still think somebody's going to get a steal of a deal before it's over with."

Thompson believes that, too. He's worked his way back from enough adversity that the hard road to any goal is never particularly daunting.

If all goes well, Thompson figures he might slip into the fourth or fifth round. If it doesn't, he can rattle off a list of undrafted free agents who made a major impact once they got into an NFL camp.

"I pretty much have just been praying about it, and you never know what happens on draft day," Thompson said. "I just really want an opportunity. I hope I get drafted, but I just want the opportunity to play again."