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March 5, 2011Before even calling his big brother -- former Cal cornerback and current Denver Bronco Syd'Quan Thompson -- or his uncle, Sacramento (Calif.) Grant junior Shaq Thompson broke the news exclusively to BearTerritory after Saturday's basketball game that he had officially committed to play football for the Bears.
"I did, I did," Thompson said. "I've got to call (Syd'Quan) tonight. Meeting all of my future teammates, just spending time, me and them, they're good. They're great. I felt comfortable with everybody there, including the coaches.
"It feels good because my brother is a big part of my life and a big influence. I followed him from high school and now to college and he opened the path for me and I just followed it."
Thompson told defensive backs coach Ashley Ambrose that he was ready to end months of speculation, and gave the Cal coaching staff their best news since another Junior Day visitor - quarterback Zach Kline - committed several months ago.
"Coach Ashley, I just felt really good with him," Thompson said. "I sat down and talked with coach (Clancy) Pendergast and coach Ashley Ambrose and they told me what was really happening and how they're changing the defense a lot," Thompson said. "They're going to man up and they were talking about a lot of other stuff and I felt comfortable with it. These are the coaches I want to play for.
"Zone doesn't really work and in the NFL you're mostly in man so it will help me and my teammates who play defensive back and safety. We'll learn man-to-man so when we get to the next level we'll already have played man."
Thompson and Kline got to speak a bit during the hoops game, perched atop Section 10 with other recruits and several current players.
"Zach's a cool person. I didn't really talk to him much the whole day, but we talked at the basketball game, and he told me that he committed, and we were just talking about (committing) and stuff, and that just got the wheels turning," Thompson said.
Other than getting his commitment off his chest, Thompson enjoyed himself at the hoops game which saw the Bears whoop rival Stanford, 74-55. He said that one of the highlights of the visit was, in fact, the food.
"I think it's just because I was hungry," Thompson laughed. "But they had real good food. But really, it was just meeting everybody and my future teammates. It was just a good day."
Thompson is regarded as one of the top athletes in the state of California, and will likely end up playing somewhere in the defensive backfield, probably at safety.
On defense for the 13-1 Pacers this past season, Thompson made 54 tackles and returned one pick for 45 yards. Thompson also rushed for 1,882 yards and 25 touchdowns on 164 carries, while hauling in 18 catches for 345 yards and three TDs on the offensive side of the ball.
"I'm going to talk to coach (Jeff) Tedford but I think they might give me a chance on offense, too," said Thompson, who will join his fellow Grant defenders Viliami Moala and Puka Lopa when he comes in as a freshman in the fall of 2012 -- the first season back at a refurbished California Memorial Stadium.