ATHENS — Trenton Thompson may have telegraphed his coming decision to turn pro the night of the Rose Bowl, when he sat at his locker and talked about the upcoming National Championship Game.
“I’ve got another Monday to prove myself again,” Thompson said.
And now the next Monday night, he may play on will be in the NFL. Thompson declared for the draft four days after the end of his junior season. It was a move that was questioned by many, as the Georgia defensive tackle did not have a strong season — at least statistically. Thompson, a preseason first-team All-SEC pick, went from 5 sacks and 56 tackles as a sophomore to zero sacks and 38 tackles as a junior.
But his position coach doesn’t think that tells the whole story.
“He’s been extremely productive,” Georgia defensive line coach Tray Scott said, speaking a couple days before the title game. “We’re not really big on stats. When it comes down to it we want to affect the quarterback. Trent has had a million hurries this year. I mean, he’s been chasing guys around like it’s nothing. And having an opportunity to finish hasn’t happened for him.”
Then Scott laughed and alluded to the team’s run to the final game of the season.
“But we’re in this situation so no one cares about that, know what I mean?” Scott said.
It also didn’t help that Thompson was never quite 100 percent, according to his high school coach. Octavia Jones, who coached Thompson at Westover High School in Albany, spoke with Thompson several times through the season.
“He was battling injuries all year long,” Jones said. “Two bad shoulders. Knees, wrists, ankles and everything. He’s a warrior.”
But Jones doesn’t think Thompson’s medical situation in the spring — and having to miss spring practice after shoulder surgery — had any effect. It was more the injuries during the season, including a sprained knee that caused him to miss two full games.
Jones, who apparently followed his former player’s season very closely, estimated that if Thompson got the same number of snaps as 2016, his tackles would have been about the same.
“He played well when he was in the game,” Jones said. “But his snaps were down. Your production can’t be high when your snaps are down.”
That wasn’t a criticism of how Georgia used Thompson, Jones said, simply a statement on the injuries he dealt with this season.
Now that he’s in the draft, Thompson and his family will be hoping that NFL scouts will see the same talent that made him the nation’s No. 1 overall prospect in the 2015 class, per 247Sports. Thompson is big (6-foot-4, 295 pounds) with unusual athleticism for his size.
One play in the title game against Alabama game exemplified that — when Thompson made a booming tackle near the sideline.
It’s unclear what feedback Thompson received, if any, from the NFL on his status. Jones said he last spoke with Thompson on Christmas Eve, at which point Thompson told Jones he was undecided on entering the draft.
“I know when I talked to him in the spring he said he was going to go ahead and come out, but then after he got hurt that he was going to stay. So I think he was kind of on the fence, teeter-tottering both ways,” Jones said. “Going in I really thought he was only going to do three years anyways, so I guess I’m not surprised.”