Tacony’s Thompson leads La Salle’s defense

La Salle’s Chris Thompson (44) leads the Explorers defense in tackles. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Chris Thompson was just tagging along with his older brother.

It ended up putting him on the path to being a top football player.

Thompson is now a junior linebacker at La Salle High School, but when he was 3, he accompanied mom, who was signing his brother Scott up to play football at Holmesburg. He was invited to join them.

“I was just there because my mom took me, and the guy doing the signups asked why I wasn’t signing up,” said Thompson, who lives in Tacony. “I signed up. I didn’t know what I was doing then, but I know I loved it. I loved football right from the start.

“I was the youngest kid on the team, but I liked it right from the start. My mom always put us in sports to keep us active, and I loved it.”

Scott didn’t stick with the sport, but Chris has never looked back.

A former three-sport athlete at La Salle, he also played basketball and lacrosse, but this year he decided to focus his attention to football, and ever since the season began, he’s been making things happen.

The starting middle linebacker averages better than 10 tackles per game. In La Salle’s most recent game, a loss to St. Joe’s Prep, he had 11 solo stops.

La Salle started off the season with three straight wins over Manheim Township, Delaware Valley and Downingtown East before dropping its first Catholic League game 38-14 to the Hawks.

The Explorers have yet to face an easy team, and that continues this week when they meet the defending 5A state champs Archbishop Wood.

“It’s fun to play top teams because that’s how we get better, and it’s better because you never want to have easy games, the tougher the team, the better,” Thompson said. “We wanted to beat (Prep), but it’s good to play teams like that. The more you play teams like that, the better you get.”

Thompson has been working real hard to become a top-flight linebacker at La Salle.

Growing up, he played on the defensive line, but when he started playing for St. Matt’s, he switched to linebacker.

In grade school, he could get by on talent, but since he got to high school, he’s put in extra work to make sure he’s ready. And in doing so, he has been able to help the rest of the players on the Explorers defense.

So far, he’s a natural.

“My favorite part about playing defense is I get to call the defense and make sure I put myself and everyone else in the right spot, it helps me a lot, too,” said Thompson, who makes the calls for the Explorers when they run a 4-3 and a 3-4 defense. “I like the 4-3 a lot because of our defensive line. They do such a great job getting out and taking care of the blockers and that frees me up to make the plays.

“My job is to play hard, but I also have to make sure the defensive line knows what’s going on and give the calls to our defensive backs. I call most of the defense, except for the outside linebackers when they blitz.”

Thompson credits his coaches for putting him in the right position. And whenever he has a question, he’s the first to raise his hand and learn as much as possible.

But he also does his share of homework.

If you see him on his laptop, he’s not watching YouTube or listening to podcasts. He’s preparing for the game.

“I study a lot of film,” said Thompson, who occasionally also plays fullback on offense. “I watch it on Hudl. Probably two or three hours a day. I usually watch it after school or during free periods. I actually really like doing it.

“Freshman year, our coaches taught us how to watch film and study each alignment and read your keys. It came easy to me, kind of. I saw everything and push it to the field. I run toward each alignment. You can tell what’s going to happen, usually, by the running backs. If you can see it, it really makes a difference.”

La Salle is enjoying its bye week, but Thompson is preparing for the next game, against Wood.

Tough games will continue throughout the season, and Thompson wouldn’t have it any other way. Other games include tilts with Roman Catholic and Malvern Prep.

As long as he has the support of his team and the school, he believes the Explorers will fare well no matter whom they play.

“It’s great playing for La Salle,” Thompson said. “It’s a great community, everyone supports you. It’s hard, it’s a little hard, but that’s what makes us better.

“I was really happy we’re having a season, but it’s great that the Catholic League is playing because we’re playing the teams we usually play. It’s great to play them because you learn from your mistakes and get better.

“I love our schedule. We never have an easy game. It just gets us better as a team and individuals and you have the opportunity to get better. It’s the best situation.”