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Playing For Chris

Oct. 25, 2012

By Scott Kotick (@ScottKotick),

Injuries are part of the game of football. It's a reality that coaches and players have to deal with every season. But this past Saturday in Miami, everyone associated with Florida State had to wonder why. Why Chris Thompson, and why now?

He had overcome so much. He had broken his back just a year ago and had poured everything he had into getting back to full health. He was having the best season of any Seminole running back in the past 16 years.

And then, just like that, a torn ACL ended his senior season.

"What that kid has went through, the back, this, that, the leadership and the poise, that guy is everything," head coach Jimbo Fisher said. "And he was actually better coming off the back injury than he has ever been. He was commenting before the beginning of the game that he felt better than he did at the beginning of the year."

"He's like a brother to me and his locker is right across from mine, so we talk every day," EJ Manuel said. "I texted him last night and told him that I love him. I wish him the best because this is his senior year and he's coming back from an injury from last year. For it to be cut short like that is tough to see."

"We were so happy to have him back from the last injury, and for him to fall down with this injury is just crazy," Telvin Smith said. "We're still praying for him and he's still going to be a vocal leader on our team. I saw him in the meetings today and he still had the same smile and that encourages everybody to keep focused and stay grinding."

Most players could not overcome a broken back much less return to playing football. But Thompson is not most players. The very next day, he was out in practice with a back brace, and his demeanor never wavered. He coached the younger backs and encouraged with everything he had.

And on Monday, Chris Thompson the coach was back out there. Although he may have been limited with crutches, he was the same old Chris, mentoring an encouraging every one of his teammates.

"He's a team firster and he wants to help our team reach our goals," James Wilder, Jr. said. "To go out there and coach the younger backs we have, me and (Devonta) Freeman, and be out there physically to tell them from a running back standpoint what to do and what not to do. He's a leader on the field on top of that, so it's great to have him there and other people wouldn't come at all."

"He's a big mentor and he always helps me with everything I need," Devonta Freeman said. "If there are some off the field issues I want to talk about, he always helps me. He'll talk to me about anything and he's a good humble kid."

"Chris is a better person than he is a football player and that says a lot because he's a great football player," Manuel said. "His character off the field says so much about him, and that's what I love about him. He's not a fake guy, and he's not one way off the field and one way on it, he's the same person. He's a quiet guy, but at the same time, he's a great person and that's what I respect about him."

And the respect he has among his teammates certainly shows. For the rest of the season, they will carry Thompson's legacy and love for the game with them at all times.

"We're definitely dedicating the rest of the season to Chris," Wilder said. "For the rest of the year, I'm putting on our wristbands 'CT4.' He taught me everything here at the college level what to do on the field, and just helped me out. Everything I do out there is what Chris pretty much taught me, so we're definitely dedicating the season to CT4."

And the best part is that he'll be there for the rest of the journey with his teammates. And just like the last time, Thompson will return from the injury even stronger than before. That's the kind of player he is.

And in the meantime, his teammates have got his back. They're playing for Chris.

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