Gophers' safety Thompson continues to expand coverage

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 21, 2014 - 6:44 AM

Safety overcame hardship to be U’s defensive leader.

Cedric Thompson has occasional flashbacks to his years in Bombay Beach, Calif., the tiny desolate town along the Salton Sea, where he transformed himself into a college football player.

“There will be a story that pops into my head, and I’ll be like, ‘God, I forgot that even happened to me,’ ” said Thompson, a senior safety who led the Gophers in tackles last year.

Bombay Beach has about 300 residents, most of them retired. Back in the 1960s, it was a popular resort destination, with ads billing it as “Palm Springs by the Sea.” Now, dead fish wash up on the deserted shore, and the roads are lined with abandoned houses.

Thompson moved there with his dad after his parents divorced. For father and son, it served as a refuge from all the gang violence they’d experienced in south-central Los Angeles.

Thompson found a whole new focus — for football and school — that helped him land an unexpected scholarship to Minnesota. After coming to campus as a complete unknown in 2011, he has emerged as this team’s de facto captain, alongside quarterback Mitch Leidner.

“I thought Cedric would be a good leader, but I had no idea he was going to do the job he’s done,” coach Jerry Kill said. “With his upbringing, and how he survived things, and what he stands for, he’s got great respect.”

Finding his way

Thompson’s memories of Bombay Beach mostly include the constant boredom, the occasional 120-degree heat, earthquakes and the stench wafting off the landlocked Salton Sea. It’s a town that sits 223 feet below sea level, on the southern edge of the San Andreas Fault.

The closest high school was 27 miles away, in Calipatria, so Thompson would catch a bus each morning at 6:15 a.m.

“When I look back at what I used to go through, living in Bombay — getting up, taking a two-hour bus ride — I can’t believe I used to do that,” Thompson said. “But once I’m in a situation, I don’t think about it. I’ll do whatever it takes to get where I want to be.”

As a 6-foot, 210-pound tackling machine, Thompson’s next step could be the NFL. His other dream is to open an athletic and academic tutoring center, where inner-city youth can better prepare to become college athletes. He’s on track to graduate in May with a degree in business and marketing.

But Thompson was reeling when he first arrived in Bombay Beach, at age 15. A cousin and a close friend from his Pop Warner team had been shot and killed by gang members. When his parents first split, Thompson and his two younger siblings moved with their mother from Compton to suburban Palmdale.

As a freshman at Palmdale’s Knight High School, Thompson kept getting into fights and was nearly expelled. Searching for more structure, he moved into his father’s one-bedroom shack, a half-block from the Salton Sea.

At about 140 pounds, Thompson wasn’t much of a factor as a sophomore running back at Calipatria High School, but coach David Shaw saw potential. With nothing else to do at home, Thompson turned himself into a workout fiend.

Shaw spent seven years as Calipatria’s coach, and Thompson was his only player to come from Bombay Beach.

“It takes a dedicated kid to get up that early and ride the bus,” Shaw said. “He has an inner drive that’s unmatched. He was driven to do better in his life.”

Thompson rushed for 1,808 yards and 27 touchdowns as a senior. When other recruits went elsewhere right before 2011 signing day, the Gophers were desperate for alternatives. Defensive backs coach Jay Sawvel found an e-mail featuring highlights of Thompson dominating games in the desert.

That was one e-mail Sawvel was happy he didn’t delete.

  • related content

  • Gophers' Rhoda ready for whatever awaits as third-string QB

    Thursday August 21, 2014

    As a walk-on from Cretin-Derham Hall, Conor Rhoda was fourth on the Gophers’ quarterback depth chart heading into last season,...

  • Former Gophers receiver Andre McDonald leaves UW-River Falls

    Wednesday August 20, 2014

    Andre McDonald, who left the University of Minnesota after being one of the top recruits in the 2012 incoming class,...

  • Cedric Thompson worked on his foot work and reaction time during practice as he continues to better understand his safety role.


    6 p.m. next Thursday • TCF Bank Stadium • TV: BTN (107.9-FM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Minnesota 35 FINAL
Miami 37
Baltimore 13 FINAL
Houston 25
Detroit 20 FINAL
Chicago 14
Cleveland 13 FINAL
Carolina 17
Atlanta 30 FINAL
New Orleans 14
Green Bay 20 FINAL
Tampa Bay 3
Kansas City 12 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
New England 17 FINAL
NY Jets 16
NY Giants 37 FINAL
St. Louis 27
Buffalo 24 FINAL
Oakland 26
Indianapolis 7 FINAL
Dallas 42
Seattle 35 FINAL
Arizona 6
Denver 7:30 PM
Denver 6:00 PM
Portland 7:00 PM
Utah 7:00 PM
Toronto 7:00 PM
Atlanta 7:30 PM
LA Clippers 7:30 PM
San Antonio
Sacramento 9:30 PM
Golden State
Ottawa 6:00 PM
Nashville 6:00 PM
Pittsburgh 6:30 PM
Arizona 9:00 PM
San Jose 9:00 PM
Calgary 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Ark-Little Rock 1:00 PM
Brown 1:00 PM
Central Conn St
Stetson 1:00 PM
Florida State
Ill-Chicago 1:00 PM
Ohio 1:30 PM
George Washington
Southern Utah 2:00 PM
Ark-Pine Bluff
Elon 2:00 PM
Kennesaw St
Dartmouth 3:00 PM
Penn State
Green Bay 3:30 PM
UC Irvine
DePaul 3:30 PM
Lewis & Clark 4:00 PM
SC State 4:30 PM
Abilene Christian
Manhattan 5:00 PM
Truett-McConnell 5:00 PM
Ga Southern
Citadel 5:00 PM
Michigan State
Miami-Ohio 5:00 PM
Ohio State
Gardner-Webb 5:00 PM
Idaho 5:00 PM
Northern Ky
Fairfield 6:00 PM
North Dakota St 6:00 PM
Alcorn State
UT Martin 6:00 PM
SE Louisiana 6:00 PM
Oakland 6:00 PM
Florida A&M 6:00 PM
East Carolina
Eastern Ky 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
IUPU-Ft Wayne 6:00 PM
Illinois State
Norfolk State 6:00 PM
James Madison
Binghamton 6:00 PM
Mount St Marys
Towson 6:00 PM
Long Island 6:00 PM
New Hampshire
Northern Ill 6:00 PM
Notre Dame
William & Mary 6:00 PM
Old Dominion
Liberty 6:00 PM
Delaware 6:00 PM
Robert Morris
MD-Eastern Shore 6:00 PM
St Bonaventure
Colgate 6:00 PM
Kansas 6:00 PM
Mercer 6:00 PM
East Tenn St 6:00 PM
VA Commonwealth
Va Military 6:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Bucknell 6:00 PM
Wake Forest
Alabama A&M 6:00 PM
Western Mich
New Orleans 6:05 PM
Columbia 6:30 PM
Long Beach State 6:30 PM
St Johns
Wofford 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Southern U 7:00 PM
UAB 7:00 PM
Char Southern 7:00 PM
Colorado State
North Florida 7:00 PM
NC Central 7:00 PM
Jackson State
Rice 7:00 PM
Central Mich 7:00 PM
McNeese State
Coppin State 7:00 PM
Furman 7:00 PM
SE Missouri St 7:00 PM
Ole Miss
Weber State 7:00 PM
Grambling St 7:00 PM
Loyola-Chicago 7:00 PM
Texas Tech
Incarnate Word 7:00 PM
Penn 7:00 PM
Chicago State 7:00 PM
SIU Edwardsville
Simpson 7:05 PM
Tenn Tech 7:05 PM
Murray State 7:05 PM
Southern Ill
Oral Roberts 7:05 PM
Missouri State
Jacksonville St 8:00 PM
Air Force
Milwaukee 8:00 PM
Wisconsin 8:00 PM
Coll of Charleston 8:00 PM
North Dakota 8:00 PM
Northern New Mexico 8:00 PM
New Mexico St
UC Santa Barbara 8:00 PM
Miami-Florida 8:00 PM
Northeastern 8:00 PM
St Marys-CA
Kent State 8:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
UC Davis 8:00 PM
Northern Colorado
Lewis-Clark State 8:05 PM
Eastern Wash
Walla Walla 8:05 PM
Portland State
TX A&M-CC 9:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton
Marshall 9:00 PM
Boise State 9:30 PM
UC Riverside 10:00 PM
San Diego St
Tulane 10:00 PM
Loyola Marymount 10:00 PM
Wichita State
Nebraska 12/23/14 12:00 AM
Nevada 3 FINAL
Louisiana 16
Utah State 21 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 6
(23) Utah 45 FINAL
Colorado State 10
Western Mich 24 FINAL
Air Force 38
South Alabama 28 FINAL
Bowling Green 33
BYU 1:00 PM
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Duke 12/27/14 1:10 PM
(15) Arizona State
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 3:00 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
UMass Lowell 57 2nd Half 7:42
Holy Cross 60
Temple 20 2nd Half 15:50
Villanova 35
Georgia Southern 30 1st Half 3:36
Southern U 18
Xavier 23 1st Half 3:59
Kennesaw St 27
Eastern Michigan 14 1st Half 3:44
Michigan 34
Brescia 12:00 PM
(21) West Virginia 1:00 PM
Ohio State
UMBC 1:00 PM
MD-Eastern Shore
Cornell 1:00 PM
St Bonaventure 1:00 PM
New Hampshire 1:00 PM
Eastern Washington 1:30 PM
Rice 2:00 PM
Texas Southern
Butler 3:05 PM
Illinois State
UC Davis 4:00 PM
(16) Stanford
Washington St 4:00 PM
Loyola Marymount
Sacramento St 4:00 PM
San Jose St
SIU-Edwardsville 4:30 PM
Oakland 6:00 PM
IUPU-Ft Wayne
Belmont 6:00 PM
(14) Georgia
George Mason 6:00 PM
Kansas 6:05 PM
Abilene Christian 7:00 PM
Kansas State
UT Martin 7:00 PM
Hampton 7:00 PM
Florida State 7:00 PM
Murray State 7:00 PM
Fla Gulf Coast 7:05 PM
Arkansas State
BYU 8:00 PM
Utah State
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters


Gophers Football 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 pmX30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 amX24-17
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 amX39-38
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 amX28-24
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa 11 amX51-14
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State 11 amX31-24
Nov 22 - at Nebraska 11 amX28-24
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin 2:30 pmX34-24
Jan 1 - vs. Missouri noon




question of the day

Poll: How much do you like the Gophers going to the Citrus Bowl?

Weekly Question