Wednesday, July 13, 2011

One on One with Wells Thompson

The first time I met Wells Thompson was early in his career. It was at a time when his first professional team was playing in a pre-season friendly. Well’s was kind enough to walk over and shake my hand, talk to me about everyday things. Sometimes, that is rare in professional sports. What I found though over the years and throughout this interview, was a very humble and thankful athlete who finds strength in people and in faith.

“If you’d asked me five or six years ago if I’d be playing professional soccer I probably would have said no.” 

Wells Thompson played his college soccer at Wake Forest University, a perennial powerhouse in the ACC. However, what most people don’t know is that Wells was a walk on. He walked on to the team as a freshman out of high school and from there he worked to earn his spot in the starting lineup, becoming a mainstay in the team. “I wasn’t highly recruited out of high school so just to be part of a Division I program was an accomplishment.”

Under the tutelage of Jay Vidovich, Thompson’s game developed. Going into college, his position was always that of a center midfielder; however Vidovich saw Wells and his skill set and moved him to the flanks, becoming a wide midfielder.

“To be honest, that transition for me was tough, because I’d always thought of myself as a center midfielder and the positions are different. It was an adjustment but I didn’t really have a choice because that’s where Jay [Vidovich] was going to play me.”

The hard work and the transition certainly paid off as Thompson was selected 5th overall in the 2007 MLS Superdraft by the New England Revolution where he would spend three seasons. Not bad for a kid who walked on to his college team. “Being drafted was such a blessing… I didn’t think it, I didn’t know it could happen.”

During his time with the Revolution he was part of the team’s first champion ship. During Well’s tenure he was part of a group that won the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in 2007, were MLS Eastern Conference Champions in 2007 and won the Superliga in 2008.

“Going up to New England was eyes wide open, I didn’t expect to be in that position. They had phenomenal talent you know with Steve Ralston and Taylor Twellman, Pat Noonan and to have a huge history going in….”

There were high expectations for Thompson as he came in as a first round draft pick. With those high expectations came pressure. Wells remained with the team, playing regularly but not always started and after three years, both he and the club decided it was time for a change. Fortunately for Wells, that change sent him to Colorado. “I’m very grateful for my time with New England. I think I learned a lot from both Paul Mariner and Steve Nicol.”

“I was super excited to go to Colorado. It’s a great state just to be in. From a soccer standpoint all the guys are really friendly and very welcoming. There are not a lot of big heads in our locker room and that, to me, is very important.”

From walk on to professional Thompson showed extreme perseverance and is now playing as a professional for the 2010 MLS Champion Colorado Rapids.Winning a championship in his first year with Colorado certainly has given Wells another feather to add to his cap.

Recently the Rapids were invited to the White House to meet President Obama and be congratulated for their 2010 Championship Run.

“It’s very humbling to go and meet the President and for him to honor us. One of the coolest things was we got to go and host a camp on the front lawn for kids who had lost a parent in the war. I think just to give back was one of the coolest things about this job.”

Thompson’s career has not been without its share of controversy. Some consider his game to be rough and there is little doubt that it is a physical one. Thompson plays fast and uses his body, often being called for fouls. When asked about this his response was not what you might expect.

“I think that I’ve grown as a person as I’ve grown in my faith. My faith is very important to me. I’ve realized that, especially in the past, some of the things I was doing were not glorifying God. I’ve really tried to change the way I’ve played and not cross that line so to speak. I think there is a difference in being aggressive and being out of control. Sometimes in the past, I think, I was out of control. In the past, I’m the first person to admit I’ve done things I’m ashamed of and that I regret. But I’m not out there to hurt anybody. I don’t want to do that.”

Faith is something that cannot be left out when discussing Wells Thompson. Thompson is a devout Christian, one who lets it be known and allows his spiritual beliefs to drive his life. Rare is it that professional athletes say that they believe something and follow it up with such obvious devotion.

“Everything I have is because of God, but also because I’ve work hard for it. Whatever you do you can do it, if you have it in your mind to glorify God. Whatever I do, I try to keep in mind that ultimately I’m doing it for God.”

Recently Wells became engaged to his girlfriend, a girl who he ‘dated’ in third grade and was his first kiss in fourth grade. The two dated in high school and fell in love. They’ve been together since and have had a long distance relationship since Thompson’s professional career.

Thompson’s professional career is not even five years old and he’s won three tournaments, traveled the country and been exposed to new things on and off the field. Looking to the future, Thompson’s is bright but it doesn’t have to be in soccer for him to be happy. The bottom line: Wells Thompson is someone who has won many things but manages to keep a humble sense of humility and grow as a person. Those are traits that many athletes could stand to learn from.

“I don’t think I’m the most skilled or best soccer player in the world, but one thing I try to do is work hard.”

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1 comment:

  1. Dude thats my photo the last one on the page! haha. Little photo credit??