First, there’s the dream – to play at an SEC school.
Then, there’s the dream school – Ole Miss.
Both lined up perfectly for West Jones punter Walker Thompson. Last Saturday the incoming senior star committed to Ole Miss football via Twitter. His decision to commit now was with purpose.
“I like it [at Ole Miss] a lot,” said Thompson. “It’s a great place. I’ve always had a dream to play in the SEC, and Ole Miss has been a dream school.
“I went ahead and got my commitment over with, so I could have the summer without having to think about it. And also to be able to go through the [upcoming] season without thinking about where I’m going to play.”
As a junior, Thompson averaged 39.6 yards per punt. His longest punt came against Laurel in mid-October. It measured out at 63 yards and helped West Jones beat Laurel 17-7 for the first time since Laurel High joined 5A football in 2013.
Thompson led West Jones in points scored as a kicker too, posting 57 total points on 27 extra points in 29 attempts and 10 field goals in 14 attempts made. His longest FG was from 45 yards out in a 30-21 win over county rival South Jones.
“I felt like I had a successful year last season,” Thompson said. “West Jones as a team had a much better season than in years past. It was a lot of fun winning games.
“Knowing my team was behind me all the time gave me the confidence to go out and be successful without the added pressure. I just lived in the moment and had a lot of fun. Coach Pierson also helped me grow and mature as a player, always pushing me to be the best player I could be. I wouldn’t be at this point in my career if it were not for him.”
His dream seemed to be a reachable goal after training with former Mississippi State kicker Devon Bell last summer. Bell, currently a free agent, signed NFL contracts with the Detroit Lions (2016) and Indianapolis Colts (2017). Both teams later waived him.
“Going into my junior year, started working with Devon Bell,” said Thompson. “I trained with him once or twice every two weeks or so. That is where I started crafting my skill. Bell told me I had a big-time leg and I could take it as far as I wanted too if I worked hard. I started going to other camps also and loving it.
“I work on it every day, trying to do even the little things behind the scenes to get better.”
Thompson will join Ole Miss as a preferred walk-on in 2019, coaches then plan to rotate Thompson in as a scholarship player following his freshman year.
“Ole Miss talked about red-shirting me my freshman year,” said the West Jones standout. “After that, they plan to [transition] me to scholarship player.”
Punting isn’t only about leg strength. The Ole Miss commit says it also about repetition.
“There’s a lot more about being a punter than just your strength,” Thompson said. “It’s about the repetitions of your steps and drops.
“Almost every night with my dad in the hallway at home, we work on the steps and drops for about an hour. Flexibility is also key. I stretch at least 30 minutes every day to stay as flexible as possible and avoid injury.”
Thompson also has plans to visit South Alabama and Florida.