Previous Page 2 of 4 Next

Continued: Out of nowhere: U football player comes from dusty California outpost

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: July 7, 2013 - 9:45 AM

Troubled park

Cedric Sr. played football growing up in Arizona, but he told his sons they had to start getting along before they would get their chance. One day, when Cedric was 9 and Tedric was 7, their father took them to Jesse Owens Park in Los Angeles, site of a large indoor swimming pool, a gym and sprawling practice fields.

“They thought we were going swimming,” Cedric Sr. said. “We brought towels and everything just to throw them off. They jumped out, and I said, ‘Let’s go over here. We’re signing up for football.’

“As soon as they started playing football, they came together. They stopped arguing. They stopped fighting. I think about that all the time.”

The Thompsons played for the Woodcrest Generals, proudly wearing the red-white-and-blue uniforms. Cedric Sr. still has numerous photos from those days taped to a wall in Bombay Beach. But one of Thompson’s teammates didn’t make it to adulthood. Clayton Montgomery got shot by a gang member on Western Avenue, just a few blocks from Jesse Owens Park. He was 15.

Thompson managed to stay out of gangs, heeding his parents’ warnings, but other friends fell into the trap. When he was in eighth grade, his 16-year-old cousin, Roy Williams, was shot and killed. While the family mourned, the marriage between Cedric Sr. and Bradford continued crumbling. Bradford finally decided to pack the kids and move to Palmdale, an hour northeast of Los Angeles.

“I was just tired of L.A., and things weren’t getting better — the gangs and all that,” Bradford said. “So I was like, maybe if I just move my boys out of here, there won’t be any problems, and they won’t have to worry.”

But it didn’t take long for Thompson to find trouble at Palmdale’s Knight High School, a place where racial tensions were especially high between blacks and Hispanics. He started getting into fights and cutting classes, nearly getting expelled.

After doing some soul searching, he decided to go live in Bombay Beach, where his father had moved into a deceased uncle’s home.

“I was missing my dad,” Thompson said. “I knew he was the only one who could control me.”

Welcome to paradise

On Thompson’s first trip to Bombay Beach, the blue Astro van his father was driving sprung a flat tire along Interstate Hwy. 10. It was after dark by the time they arrived. Thompson could smell the Salton Sea, just down the road. But he was too tired to explore, too jaded to care.

“I woke up in the morning and went for a walk,” Thompson said. “I couldn’t believe I was here.”

The Salton Sea formed by accident in 1905, when the Colorado River flooded into a salt basin. For decades, people thought the area had limitless potential. Promotional ads in the 1960s billed it as Palm Springs-by-the-Sea. Movie stars turned up at the resorts. Fishermen flocked to catch corvina and tilapia.

“It was a gas,” said longtime Bombay Beach resident Larry Wiebalk. “You couldn’t find a place to put your towel down on the beach — that’s how many people were out here.”

The sea is 15 miles wide and 35 miles long. It takes in water from the New River, but nothing flows out, creating a hot stew of increasing salinity that has turned deadly for fish. The stench can be staggering. Tilapia still bite, when they’re not washing up on the shore. The corvina are long gone.

Wiebalk said he hasn’t stepped in the water in 20 years. Thompson can’t recall ever seeing a boat.

Last weekend, the temperature in Bombay Beach reached 122 degrees. Besides sitting 223 feet below sea level, at one of the lowest elevations in the Western Hemisphere, the town is located on the southern edge of the San Andreas Fault. There aren’t just earthquakes, there are earthquake swarms.

  • related content

  • Video: Small town a safe haven for Gophers football player

    Sunday July 7, 2013

    University of Minnesota football player Cedric Thompson visits the small town he lived in during high school. Bombay Beach...

  • Watch the trailer from the documentary "Bombay Beach"

    Sunday July 7, 2013

    The movie Bombay Beach, in which Gophers football player Cedric Thompson is featured, won the Best Documentary Feature award at...

  • Chart: The Cedric Thompson file

    Saturday July 6, 2013

    Position: SafetyYear in school: JuniorSize: 5-10, 211 poundsBorn: Feb. 10, 1993, in Inglewood, Calif.Calipatria High School: Played JV as a...

  • Cedric Thompson wore a towel on his head to protect himself from the extreme heat on a recent visit to the small town of Bombay Beach, Calif., which sits 60 miles southeast of Palm Springs. Thompson moved there when he was 15, after escaping the gangs and the violence in South Central Los Angeles. He is a projected defensive starter for the Gophers football team this fall.

  • "i was like, there's no way I can live like this. It pushed me to get out of here." — Cedric Thompson, shown above near his high school football field in Calipatria, Calif., on life in Bombay Beach

  • Cedric Thompson would run up and down the beach of the Salton Sea as part of his workout regimen during his teen years. The area sits below sea level and on the San Andreas Fault. It once was a tourist attraction but now is mainly just a curiosity. The shallow water and sand are mainly still.

  • Cedric Thompson lived with his father in a one-bedroom house in Bombay Beach. With time on his hands, he became maniacal about his workouts. “I would have never worked out that hard if I was living in L.A.,” Thompson said.

  • While living in Bombay Beach, Cedric Thompson went to high school 27 miles away in Calipatria. His football coach, David Shaw, saw his potential when he was a 140-pound sophomore. As a senior, Thompson rushed for 1,808 yards and 27 touchdowns. For part of that year he lived with Shaw in Brawley to be closer to school.

  • Cedric Thompson intercepted a pass against Michigan last November at TCF Bank Stadium. He played in all 13 games for the Gophers last season, starting eight of them.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Cleveland - WP: C. Allen 4 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: G. Holland 3
Baltimore 0 Top 3rd Inning
NY Yankees 0
Kansas City 1 Top 2nd Inning
Cleveland 0
Seattle 1 Top 2nd Inning
Toronto 4
Chicago WSox 2 Bottom 2nd Inning
Detroit 0
Pittsburgh 0 Top 2nd Inning
Atlanta 0
Houston - N. Tropeano 7:05 PM
Texas - D. Holland
St. Louis - A. Wainwright 7:05 PM
Chicago Cubs - T. Wood
Arizona - J. Collmenter 7:10 PM
Minnesota - R. Nolasco
LA Angels - C. Wilson 9:05 PM
Oakland - J. Samardzija
San Francisco - J. Peavy 9:10 PM
Los Angeles - D. Haren
Colorado - T. Matzek 9:10 PM
San Diego - E. Stults
Chicago 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Buffalo 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Green Bay 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Tennessee 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Carolina 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Detroit 9/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
Tampa Bay 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Miami 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Oakland
Jacksonville 9/28/14 3:05 PM
San Diego
Atlanta 9/28/14 3:25 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 9/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
New Orleans 9/28/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
Ottawa 2 FINAL
NY Islanders 3
Ottawa 5:00 PM
NY Islanders
New Jersey 2 1st Prd 14:49
NY Rangers 1
Detroit 0 1st Prd 14:44
Pittsburgh 0
Toronto 0 1st Prd 5:50
Philadelphia 0
Washington 0 1st Prd 14:25
Philadelphia 0
Minnesota 7:00 PM
Winnipeg
St. Louis 7:30 PM
Dallas
Anaheim 8:00 PM
Colorado
Colorado 9:00 PM
Anaheim
Los Angeles 9:00 PM
Arizona
Arizona 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(24) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(11) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(25) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(12) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(9) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
NC State
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(22) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(13) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
North Carolina 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Clemson
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(17) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Duke 9/27/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(8) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(21) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(18) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 15 FINAL
Montreal 31
Ottawa 32 FINAL
Saskatchewan 35
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pm
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern TBA
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 am
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 am
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Vikings and Gophers do this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close