It took years, but Oklahoma native Casey Thompson’s time has arrived in Red River Showdown
Sitting behind Ehlinger, showing patience behind Card, Thompson finally gets Cotton Bowl stage for himself
Casey Thompson, a faith-based, detail-oriented, yes-sir, no-ma’am type who might be the most loyal and compassionate person you’ll ever meet, will rain hell down on skeptics.
Go on, doubt him. At this point, he welcomes it. On Saturday, go sit in the Oklahoma end of the Cotton Bowl while you’re at it. Let’s be honest, there’ll probably be some on the north side, too.
Even Job would’ve hit the transfer portal by now. Not Thompson. This Oklahoma City-raised Texas Longhorn has every intention of showing the college football world what it has missed by making Thompson continually wait his turn.
“I never really grew up hating a team, and even now that I’m at Texas, I wouldn’t say that I hate OU,” Thompson said. “At the end of the day, I’m a competitor. I want to win, and I also want to start, so that’s what it comes down to.”
No. 23 Texas (4-1, 2-0 Big 12) may have started the season with quarterback questions. But not anymore. The Red River Showdown against No. 5 Oklahoma (5-0, 2-0) is Thompson’s stage. He’s living proof that if you believe in yourself, stick it out and stay true to your word, things might just work out as they should.
“I just tell him, just do your thing,” running back Bijan Robinson said. “Use the gifts that God gave you, like I always say, and just make sure you’re comfortable.”
Maybe that toughness was instilled by Thompson's father. Charles Thompson was a star quarterback at Oklahoma in the late 1980s. Those who know anything about OU history can probably guess his feelings about Texas. “I guess hatred is a harsh word,” Charles said, “but I guess you could say a real dislike.”
Having been born into the “family business,” Casey, one of three football-playing sons, started playing at age 4. Dad trained his son at running back and linebacker.
“He was a fierce tackler,” Charles Thompson said. “He was one of those kids who didn’t even take his helmet off during timeouts and halftime.”
Casey switched to quarterback in middle school and became a three-year starter at Southmoore, a Class 6A school in Moore, Okla. As Thompson went into his senior year, his high school coach, Jeff Brickman, took a job coaching the smaller Class 4A Newcastle.
“I had no idea that Casey would move and play his senior year at this smaller school I was at,” Brickman said. “Thinking back on it, it really says a lot about loyalty. I guess he and Charles just trusted me.”
Sure, Casey wanted to stay with a familiar offense. But the move also benefitted Cade, Casey’s younger brother. Casey had 30 scholarship offers as the fifth-best recruit in the state of Oklahoma, according to Rivals. He threw for 9,829 yards and 107 touchdowns in four high school seasons.
“Urban Meyer personally texted me, Lincoln Riley texted me and even Nick Saban,” Casey said. He committed to Texas' Tom Herman and should have been the celebrated quarterback signee of 2018. Instead, most Texas fans were more excited about California's Cameron Rising.
Riley, the Oklahoma coach, told reporters this week, “You never wish too much good upon them, but it’s been fun for me to see Casey do well. It really has.”
When Thompson arrived at Texas in 2018, Sam Ehlinger was already established as the quarterback of UT’s future. So Thompson had to wait. Rising got tired of waiting and left for Utah not long after the Sugar Bowl.
In 2019, Texas signed dual-threat quarterback Roschon Johnson, who generated a ton of buzz. But Johnson got moved to running back to shore up depth. Thompson still waited as Ehlinger started as a junior.
In 2020, Texas signed two highly-talented quarterbacks — Lake Travis' Hudson Card and Duncanville's Ja’Quinden Jackson. Card was preordained by some as the quarterback of the future, mostly because of his physical traits and tight spirals. Jackson was in the transfer portal and gone in less than a year. Still, Thompson had to wait as Ehlinger played out his senior season.
Finally, 2021 arrived, Ehlinger left for the NFL and Thompson went into the spring and summer battling Card. It was the veteran’s time, right? Surely new coach Steve Sarkisian saw what Thompson did to Colorado in the Alamo Bowl? Four second-half touchdown passes must mean something.
“You would assume you’d be the man going into next season,” Brickman said.
Thompson revealed this week that he personally paid to fly Texas’ starting receivers to Miami during the offseason to train with NFL standouts Stefon Diggs and Jarvis Landry. He initiated extra film sessions with the receivers and running backs. Thompson walked, talked and acted like the future starter.
Yet again, he had to wait, though. Sarkisian chose Card, the redshirt freshman, to start against Louisiana in the opener.
“Listen, he didn’t like it,” Charles Thompson said. “But instead of pouting about it, we talked about it individually and said we’d take it one day at a time, one week at a time.”
The proud father’s confidence is just as unwavering as his son’s.
“I think he’s been looked up as the ‘other’ guy, not the guy,” Charles said. “I think he’s kind of taken that on the chin a little bit and it motivated him. But what Casey’s done is what he’s always done. He’s not going to prepare any different because he’s the backup instead of the starter.”
Card struggled through three quarters against an unrelenting Arkansas defense in week two. Why Sarkisian waited so long to make the switch is something we may never know. But Thompson was inserted with 1:50 left in the third quarter as the Horns trailed 33-7. The game was essentially over.
Arkansas’ defense never thought it was. Thompson led two touchdown drives and earned the starting nod the next week against Rice. He’s thrown for 609 yards and eight touchdowns in the three games since.
“He chose to come to the University of Texas,” Sarkisian said. “He wanted to be a Longhorn, through the adversity of being a backup, through not being named the starter, through pride, that perseverance, I think he was able to get through that because this was his choice to come here.”
Thompson still opens his wallet for teammates. He took the starting offensive linemen, plus sixth man Andrej Karic, to Vince Young Steakhouse last week. “I kind of wanted to impress them for their first dinner,” Thompson said, “but every week won’t be that expensive.”
He opens his heart, too. All proceeds from Thompson’s Cameo account will go to the No Kid Hungry campaign, which combats child hunger. He charges $50 to brighten someone’s day with a cellphone video message.
“He’s told me before there are some people down there under the bridges on Sixth Street,” Brickman said. “He’s gone to Vince Young Steakhouse and taken them some dinner. He’s not a typical college kid.”
Should Thompson earn NFL money, he wants to “give back to the less fortunate.” He wants to give money to people overseas, to people living in poverty. “Fix the roads and stuff like that, make sure everyone is safe in the elementary school,” he said.
Thompson celebrated his 21st birthday last week, and family and friends surprised him with dinner at Pappadeaux. Things are turning around on the football field. Now, Thompson can take down the team his family and friends back home worship.
“I don’t know if I could see myself on the other side,” said Texas linebacker Luke Brockermeyer.
Thompson believes God has a plan, and we all have a purpose. Is it His plan to beat the Sooners? Plenty of Longhorns sure hope so. On this, let there be no doubt.
“People can’t control what God already has destined,” Charles Thompson said. “He’s a kid that’s not focused on partying and drinking. He’s focused on being the very best football player he can be.
“He’s hit it out the park thus far.”
23-Texas vs. 5-Oklahoma
When: 11 a.m.
Where: Cotton Bowl, Dallas
Radio: 104.9, 105.3 (Spanish), 99.3, 98.5, 1260