Joe Christensen covered Major League Baseball for 15 years, including three seasons at the Baltimore Sun and eight at the Star Tribune, before switching to the college football beat. He’s a Faribault, Minn., native who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1996. He covered Jim Wacker’s Gophers for the Minnesota Daily and also wrote about USC, UCLA and the Rose Bowl for the Riverside Press-Enterprise before getting this chance to cover football again.

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Gophers safety Thompson wins Wilma Rudolph national achievement award

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gophers awards and honors Updated: June 9, 2014 - 11:44 AM

In 20-plus years in newspapers, I've come across few stories that compare with Gophers safety Cedric Thompson's. Last year, photographer Jerry Holt and I got the chance to visit Thompson's home in Bombay Beach, Calif., and travel the bus route that used to take him two hours -- one way -- to Calipatria High School.

Thompson, who went to this area along the Salton Sea to escape the gang violence in South Central Los Angeles, opened up about his story, as he had for director Alma Har'el, in her award-winning documentary "Bombay Beach."

Thompson continued to thrive on the field last year for the Gophers and has established himself as a senior leader heading into this fall. On Saturday, Thompson received the Wilma Rudolph Student Athlete Achievement Award in Orlando, Fla., at the annual National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics convention.

According to the Gophers' press release, the award "honors student athletes who have overcome great personal, academic, and/or emotional odds to achieve academic success while participating in intercollegiate athletics."

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