Do something for me. Go to YouTube, and just look up the name Darwin Thompson. Check out a few plays, or his whole tape if you wish. But you will find the man they call ‘DTRAINN’ is nothing like any other 5’8” Running Back you have ever seen.
Yo, Darwin Thompson declared so I’m diving into his tape, but holy hell what a play. This is ELITE contact balance. I have no clue how he’d stayed up here. Dude is a quick and shifty runner. So far, I LOVE what I see. #DraftTwitter pic.twitter.com/8qjZLM30iJ— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) December 28, 2018
This was the first play I saw of Darwin Thompson. To say I was intrigued would be an understatement. I then learnt that this was nothing but a normality in his tape. Thompson was unlike any other 5’8” RB I had ever seen.
I saw that listing and thought I might see a Tarik Cohen, Darren Sproles, or Dion Lewis clone, but I saw none of those things. I saw those guys all intermixed into his game in various ways, but more so that Thompson was a completely unique player.
So, I looked up his background, this guy had to be a long-term standout and certainly a slept on stud, right?
He never started in high school. He was redshirted once he walked onto a Junior College. He was consistently told he couldn’t make it because of his size.
Darwin Thompson is a man who has been told he couldn’t do it all his life. He has been spoken to as if his dreams were nothing more than mere drivel. Yet, there seemed to be a drive that made this 5’8” dynamo strive for more and more.
Thompson is a native of Jenks, Oklahoma, and at Jenks High School, he failed to ever start a game for his team. Thus, naturally, he had no offers out of high school. Not one D1 offer, not one D2 offer, not one D3 or NAIA offer. Zero.
With the cupboard bare and knowing he had to do something with his fire and humbling experience from high school, he walked onto Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College as a 5’8” 165 pound RB and was redshirted almost immediately. It’s not like this was a bad thing for Thompson, though. He knew that in the long run, it helped him more than he could have ever known.
“It was a great experience simply because it allowed me to mature. I felt the experience from that redshirt season, my humbling experience in high school, and this chip on my shoulder, was going to take me far.”
Thompson proceeded to light up the JUCO scene en route to becoming an All-American and MVP of the Southwest Junior College Conference. He led the nation in all-purpose yards during his Sophomore season. The 5’8” kid from Jenks was getting a lot of buzz up on the recruiting trail, but even then, his phone remained a little too cold. He only got five division one offers — South Alabama, Southern Miss, Middle Tennessee State, New Mexico, and one final one, Utah State.
Thompson was drawn in immediately due to the Mormon-centered culture and environment that he was surrounded with in Logan, Utah. Moreover, the natural connections the coaches had with Oklahoma kept him right by home. It was a natural fit for Thompson.
“I met a new group of people up there and the atmosphere had a positive effect on me. It allowed me to see different viewpoints. The coaches, they had Oklahoma connections and I knew they had my best interest in mind.”
Thompson came onto Utah State campus and expected to dominate right away. He held himself to the highest expectations. But he had a lot to work to do on with his body and his game. His rawness was still undeniable.
That was before Head Coach Matt Wells and Strength Coach Dave Scholz got a hand on Thompson.
Scholz transformed Thompson’s body into that of a pseudo-freak. His frame, not nearly filled out enough, was changed and filled out entirely in a matter of months. Thompson had done his best to overcome his size with strength before arriving in Logan, but Scholz took him and his body to the next level.
By Summer, Thompson was front squatting 500 pounds, back squatting 750 pounds, and bench 225 pounds upwards of 30 times.
Unbelievable lift by @DTRAINN5 today...dude is 195 lbs. and handled 500 lbs. with ease on the Front Squat today...no belt or support of any kind and a FULL SQUAT #frontsquat #fullsquat #depth #freak pic.twitter.com/4FPDUzL3NN— David Scholz (@coachscholz) July 20, 2018
Then, Matt Wells went to work. There was never an easy day of practice for Darwin Thompson. There were no free passes. Wells yelled at Thompson for even small mistakes, but Thompson relished it.
“Matt Wells demanded perfection. If I was carrying the ball in the wrong hand, he would scream at me down the field. There was nothing else but perfection at Utah State, and Coach Wells made me better in every way because of it.”
Fast forward to the end of this season after Utah State clobbered North Texas 52-13 in the New Mexico Bowl and Darwin Thompson had over 1300 yards of all-purpose yards and was one of the main conductors of the Utah State offense.
He had a decision to make. Coach Wells looked like he was heading to Texas Tech to replace Kliff Kingsbury and Thompson was draft eligible and would graduate with a degree this year.
So he declared for the 2019 NFL Draft. For Aggies fans, this was no shock because of what Thompson had done all year. He ran over LBs much larger than him and had hurdled just as many people. The tape he had put out was as strong as just about any other RB in the class, and yet, no bowl games came calling. He did not receive any opportunity to showcase himself after the season, but it was expected that Thompson would appear at the NFL Scouting Combine and would proceed to rise from there.
But the call never came. He had been snubbed from the Combine.
This was never anything new for Darwin Thompson. During draft season, he has heard the same things.
“You will never be able to win the way you did in college ..... You are too small .... Your vision is inconsistent”, but to know the league is low on him, too that might be a punch to the gut.
But not for Darwin Thompson. He went forward with the same mentality he had since that hardship in high school.
“I obviously wish I had that opportunity, but you can bet I am going to work harder than I ever have before just to prove them wrong.”
Thompson would’ve likely tested ridiculously well, too. His 40 time is Sub 4.4, his vertical is 42’ at least, and the bench press is his breathing ground. Athletically, he is a freak, and he knows it.
With NFL prospects in his future and his hope to make a splash, Thompson is keeping the same chip he has had one his shoulder for his whole life into his life goal — the NFL.
“A team is going to get a guy who will be the first one there and the last one out. I am not going to ever stop working and no matter what the team wants from me, I am going to give it my all.”
Opportunity might not be knocking on Darwin Thompson’s door, but he is going to knock on it. Thompson has always had the odds stacked against him in more ways than one. The noise in his ear, his lack of size, his raw frame, and every other comment that took a shot at his game.
Darwin Thompson is hungrier than ever has he has to defeat those odds one more time. Maybe Thompson’s likely freakish testing at his pro day won’t be as widely popularized as if he had put up those numbers in Indianapolis, but Thompson has always overcome those odds.
If there is anything Darwin Thompson knows how to do, it is overcome odds every single time, and if I were a betting man, I’d bet on him overcoming them once again.