In football, Shaq Thompson was one of the top safeties in his recruiting class. In baseball, he made headlines for his 0-for-39 stat line in summer league play, but even after a stellar freshman season on the football field for the Washington Huskies in 2012, he wasn’t quite ready to give up on baseball — until now.
WEEI.com reports that Thompson, who was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 18th round of the 2012 draft, will no longer juggle two sports, instead choosing to focus full-time on football.
Anyone who followed Thompson’s MiLB career might wonder what took him so long. Last summer, he didn’t get a single hit in Gulf Coast League play, striking out in 37 of his 39 at-bats. His struggles at the plate made him more determined to work hard and improve, and as soon as spring football workouts wrapped up, he rejoined the organization for spring training during his college spring break.
Now, it seems, he’s given up on one goal to focus more fully on another.
This isn’t the first time Thompson has chosen football over baseball. He hung up his bat and glove back in sixth grade to concentrate on football, but he returned to the diamond during his senior year of high school, in part because of growing concerns over the physical toll of playing football long-term.
According to GoHuskies.com, Thompson received football scholarship offers to Alabama, Cal, Oregon, USC, UCLA, Florida, Notre Dame, Michigan and Auburn, but he chose UW because it was the only program that would allow him to continue to pursue a baseball career.
Washington’s willingness to accommodate Thompson looked like a good idea during his freshman season, and it could pay off big time now that football is his only priority.
Thompson was recruited as a safety, but the Huskies moved him to linebacker last year. He started every game at nickel back and finished fifth on the team with 74 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and three interceptions.
As a true freshman, he was given mainly simple assignments as he transitioned from safety to linebacker, but he still became a key player on the UW defense. He admitted that the playbook was overwhelming at first, but his impressive athletic ability — you don’t just get drafted to play professional baseball after a five-year hiatus unless you have serious skills — helped him earn All Pac-12 Honorable Mention in 2012.
Now that he has a year of experience and has had time to adjust to his new position as well as the speed and intensity of college football, he’ll be expected to be an even bigger part of the defense. Since he’s no longer splitting his time between football and baseball, Thompson will have all summer to get ready.