He once made a one-handed grab playing against his friends growing up in a small neighborhood in Pearl, Mississippi. From there, Southern Miss wide receiver D.J. Thompson knew football was a sport he was truly interested in.
Before playing on Saturdays at ‘The Rock’, Thompson was making big plays at Ray Rogers Stadium at Pearl High School, roughly 90 miles north from Hattiesburg. He was often one of the biggest players at his position on the field.
Now, going into his junior year at Southern Miss, the 6-foot-3, 198-pound Thompson talks about his start to football, his high school days at Pearl and his transition and growth of being a wide receiver on the collegiate level.
1. D.J., I know you are native of Pearl, Mississippi. How long have you been playing football and or when did you first start playing football?
DJ: In the 8th grade, I officially started playing football.
2. What made you begin football or who/ what grew your interest for the sport? Has it always been a dream for you to play football?
DJ: No, I always loved soccer and basketball. Football was just something my friends where doing. I just fell in love with it.
3. What middle school did you go to? Did you play football in middle school?
DJ: I went to Pearl Junior High School, which is where I started playing football.
4. When you played in middle school or growing up, what position did you play?
DJ: I have always played wide receiver and safety.
5. What was one of your favorite childhood sports memories particularly you playing sports? Has it motivated you to where you are as an athlete now and where you would like to go?
DJ: I jumped over all of the neighborhood kids and caught a pass one handed. That is when I knew I would was growing towards that sport.
6. Are there any family members who played a role or impact on your growth as an athlete or football player?
DJ: My mother has always supported me in every sport I have played.
7. You attended Pearl High School where you made a huge impact playing wide receiver. How was the experience there playing at the wide receiver position? What did you learn the most from playing here?
DJ: I learned as much as I thought I needed to learn, but of course college is a higher level than high school so I needed way more tools to be a better receiver.
8.What did the coach or coaches’ at Pearl stress to you that helped you grow as a player?
DJ: They stressed to me to catch everything that came my way and to be dominant with my size.
9. You chose to attend Southern Miss to continue your dream of playing football. Ultimately, what made you decide to attend USM? Were you recruited as a freshman or were you redshirted?
DJ: I was recruited to the University of Southern Mississippi as a freshman. And I had other offers but Southern miss has always felt like home so I couldn’t resist.
10. What were your initial thoughts on attending Southern Miss? Going into your first year and completing it, what was the hardest thing in the transition process from high school to college? What did you learn from it?
DJ: I had to adjust, because I was no longer “the man”. I was at the bottom of the totem pole and I’m still working my way up.
11. In 2014, according to ESPN.com, you recorded 22 receptions and 231 yards. How do you plan to build on this in the upcoming year?
DJ: I plan to double what I did last year. I came off of a chronic hamstring injury last year, so, it was a good learning experience for me.
12. What did you learn the most from last season? I know you had a few nagging injuries that kept you sidelined at one point.
DJ: I learned to just keep my head up and keep pressing forward. That is all I really can do.
13. How much of an impact has Nick Mullens had on you as an athlete?
DJ: He stays on me about how good I can be. I can only respect him for taking on the role that he has. He is a great leader.
14. I know you and other wide receivers are competing for playing time on the field. Beyond that, what is your relationship with them? Do you all motivate and help each other daily to be better athletes?
DJ: They are my brothers. Yes, it’s competition, but we all have an understanding that we are trying to get better and win.
15. What will head coach Todd Monken expect from you the most for the upcoming season? Will he look for you to be more of a leader at the position this year?
DJ: Yes. I believe I can be a leader and have an impact on the team if I can stay focused and make the right decisions.
16. What is your biggest goal for the upcoming year? Are you expecting to have a breakout year?
DJ: Yes, I hope to. That is the plan. I’m just ready to show everyone what I am capable of.
17. As an athlete, I am sure you pay close attention to NFL wide receivers and their techniques and skill sets. What wide receiver(s) in the NFL do you watch the most?
DJ: Steve Smith
18. Do you plan to play on the next level after your final season at Southern Miss?
DJ: I hope to. Only time will tell!
Getting to know David “DJ” Thompson
Full Name: David Russell Thompson Jr.
Major: Communication Sciences
Hometown: Jackson, Mississippi
Classification: (RS) Junior
Position: Wide Receiver
Life Motto: Get to the money
Favorite Athlete: Steve Smith, Wide Receiver for the Baltimore Ravens
Favorite Team: Dallas Mavericks