The coronavirus pandemic brought the sports world to a halt in March, resulting in the closure of schools and cancellation of spring sports in Arizona.
Athletes had to take it upon themselves to find an outlet to train as coaches were essentially barred from in-person contact. Despite the added challenges, several athletes continued to flourish and work on their craft to make improvements in hopes of a 2020 fall season taking place.
That includes Mesquite senior quarterback Ty Thompson.
“I’ve seen improvement on the little things I was focusing on,” Thompson said. “I was really nitpicking the things I wanted to work on. I feel like my accuracy has improved and I feel like I can move better.”
Thompson took part in the Elite 11 quarterback competition in Nashville, Tenn. in July. Several recruiting analysts from 247Sports, Rivals and other top national databases argued Thompson was the clear-cut favorite to win the competition, as he showed his arm strength and overall poise at the position during the three-day competition. Even then, however, he wasn’t declared the winner.
Still, he said it was among the most fun he’s ever had playing football.
“It was awesome,” Thompson said. “It was three days of playing a whole lot of football with a great group of guys. I learned a lot and did pretty well.”
Thompson went back to his normal training regimen with quarterback guru Mike Giovando and began summer workouts with Mesquite. His progression through the spring and summer began paying off in dividends.
Heading into the summer, the University of Oregon commit was named to a plethora of national preseason watch lists. Already the top-ranked player in the 2021 class in Arizona, his stock continued to rise on a national level.
Now the third-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the country by Rivals, Thompson was named a Sports Illustrated preseason All-American. But perhaps Thompson’s most notable accomplishment this offseason was being elevated to a five-star recruit by Rivals.
“I didn’t even know but the Oregon coaches sent it to me and told me congratulations,” Thompson said. “I was really surprised and happy about it.”
Thompson’s accolades don’t come as a surprise to Mesquite head football coach Scott Hare.
Now entering his second year as head of the football program, Hare watched Thompson develop as a freshman when he served as Mesquite’s athletic director. He saw Thompson explode onto the national recruiting scene during his sophomore season, when he began fielding several scholarship offers from power-five programs.
As a junior last season, Thompson took the Mesquite football program to new heights, finishing the season 12-2 and as the 4A Conference champions, the first-ever title for the program.
“We knew what we were getting with Ty when he first stepped on this campus as a freshman,” Hare said. “I had an idea about what we wanted to do and how we wanted to do it when I took over but a lot of that stemmed from what they were already doing his first two years.
“I hope I’ve been able to coach him in a way that he feels I have helped him. But Ty was going to be great no matter who was coaching him or what program he went to.”
At 6-foot-4, 220 pounds with speed, arm strength and accuracy, Thompson has the ability to become the next great quarterback out of Arizona, a state that has seen its stock rise with big-name recruits in recent years.
Thompson said he hopes to continue Arizona’s new-found legacy of successful quarterbacks at the next level. But his focus now remains solely on helping Mesquite win back-to-back titles at the 4A level or by breaking into the Open Division playoffs.
With several other key returning players for Mesquite, such as do-it-all playmaker Andrew Morris, who Hare believes will be Mesquite’s next All-American after a slow recruitment period due to the spring cancellations.
“I think Andrew’s recruitment is going to explode,” Hare said. “I think the pandemic didn’t necessarily hurt his recruitment but delayed it. Once college coaches see him, they’ll realize he can play anywhere. You don’t see many guys that can play wide receiver and middle linebacker.”
Mesquite will also benefit from 6-foot-4 tight end Gerardo Saenz, who may take over at quarterback in 2021 when Thompson graduates. Both Hare and Thompson also expect success from senior wideout Lavontae Trotter, who, before suffering an injured ankle early on last year, is able to use his speed to be a deep-ball threat.
Expectations are high for the Wildcats in 2020. Thompson, with his college decision made up and a clear mind to focus only on Mesquite football, aims to do whatever it takes to hoist another championship trophy.
“We are going to be a special team this year,” Thompson said. “We just have to buy-in to what coach Hare is preaching to us and putting in front of us. If we work as hard as we did last year, I think we can definitely get back there.”