The University of Miami’s best quarterback — outside of Stephen Morris — might also be the Hurricanes’ best baseball player.
Freshman David Thompson, who broke Alex Rodriguez’s state high school record for home runs, is aiming to achieve a rare double at UM by successfully combining football and baseball careers.
Others have tried — former NFL players Phillip Buchanon and Kenard Lang among them — and mostly failed.
But Thompson, at UM on a football scholarship, might be different. Jim Morris and Al Golden are counting on it.
An agreement between the two UM coaches calls for Thompson — a power-hitting third baseman — to play only baseball during the spring and only football during the fall.
“This is what I grew up doing, and it’s fun,” said Thompson, a two-sport star at Miami Westminster Christian. “I love them both. … If you’re good at it and you can do it, why not?”
Thompson didn’t play football for UM last fall while recovering from right shoulder surgery, but he returned for baseball season.
After a fast start in which he knocked in 13 runs in his first seven games as a college player, Thompson has struggled along with the rest of the Hurricanes’ lineup. He has two hits in his last 21 at-bats and one RBI in UM’s last nine games.
But those that watch him play every day say Thompson has star potential. A slick fielder at third, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Thompson has the build to follow in the power-hitting footsteps of UM alums like Ryan Braun, Yonder Alonso and Pat Burrell.
While Thompson has only three homers this season — nearly half of UM’s anemic team total of eight — there’s no shortage of predictions that he’ll grow into a slugging role. In high school, Thompson hit 18 home runs as a senior and 55 for his career — both topping the state marks set by Rodriguez, a fellow Westminster Christian alum.
“David is going to be a home run hitter here,” UM senior catcher Alex San Juan said. “And he has the potential to hit a lot — double figures easily. It’s only a matter of time till it all clicks together.”
Thompson will also look to connect on a few long balls when he shows up for fall football practice in August.
Thompson, who ended high school career with the third-most total yards from scrimmage in Miami-Dade County history, could be one of six scholarship quarterbacks on the roster when fall camp begins.
“I hope to compete for that No. 2 spot,” Thompson said.
That won’t be easy. Junior Ryan Williams backed up Morris last season and finished spring practice last month as the No. 2, beating out redshirt freshman Gray Crow.
Having missed last football season because of shoulder surgery, Thompson appears at a major disadvantage compared to his fellow quarterbacks.
But Thompson has one key backer in Golden, who has been very supportive of his attempt to play two sports. Golden keeps in contact with Thompson through texts and even included him on UM’s post-spring depth chart as the team’s holder even though Thompson has yet to participate in any football activities.
“I’m not really interfering right now with David,” Golden said. “David is exceedingly bright and can figure things out.”
Thompson said he hasn’t thrown a football since December in order to save the wear and tear on his right shoulder.
But once baseball season is over, Thompson said he’ll “be walking across the outfield and I’m going right to football.”
Jim Morris said he would like to see Thompson, who is batting .248 with a team-high 28 RBIs, play some summer baseball to further his development, but Golden is likely just as anxious to see him pick up a football.
History says Thompson will eventually settle on one sport because it’s so difficult to play two.
If that happens, which one will Thompson pick?
“Baseball,” senior outfielder Chantz Mack said. “He’s got it in baseball. You’ll see.”