LAS VEGAS, Nevada — Events like the East-West Shrine Bowl are perfect for NFL Draft prospects such as Stephen F. Austin’s defensive end and pass rush specialist BJ Thompson. Coming from an FCS school there’s always the question of if that player can produce against NFL-level competition, so the week gives someone like Thompson a chance to prove himself. That’s exactly what he did as one of my winners from the All-Star practices.
Part of what makes the 6’6” pass-rusher intriguing is his 82-inch wingspan (6’10”) and 40-inch vertical, according to an Austin staff member who also said Thompson has the longest broad jump on the team. Plus, a dirty spin move that he showed off against and beat some Power Five competitors surely caught the eye of Las Vegas Raiders general manager Dave Zeigler, who was in attendance.
But Thompson isn’t completely inexperienced against this level of competition. A consensus three-star recruit coming out of England High School in England, Arkansas, he committed to Baylor over offers from Florida State, Texas and Cincinnati. In 2018, he had four sacks in 10 games with two starts before transferring to the Lumberjacks.
Now, he hopes to become one of the few FCS players selected in this year’s NFL Draft. I got a chance to sit down and interview Thompson in Las Vegas at the Shrine Bowl, and below is a copy of our transcript.
MH: What are you hoping to prove this week?
BT: Coming from a smaller FCS school, just trying to prove that I belong. That I can compete with the best of the best, no matter where I come from, and no matter what level they played at.
MH: You originally played at Baylor, so I’m curious what made you decide to leave? And can you compare the competition that you faced today versus what you saw in the Big 12?
BT: My sophomore year was it was complicated issues and I just had to be better and, you know, and made my way to SFA.
The competition I mean, it’s comparable. I feel like I’ve always been able to compete with the biggest of the dogs. At Baylor, I felt like it wasn’t too much and I could handle it. And after the first practice, I feel like it’s nothing too much I can’t handle either.
MH: How do you think the day went for you? I saw you win a couple of times in the one-on-ones with that spin move.
BT: Yeah, I think today well, using my athletic ability, using what God gave me. I feel like no matter who I’m playing that’s something I’m always gonna have kind of an edge on, my speed, quickness and just my ability to bend in and do the things that I do.
MH: And a length advantage I’m assuming, too?
BT: Haha, yeah, a little bit.
MH: Is the spin move your favorite pass rush move? You won a few times on the inside with it.
BT: It’s not necessarily my favorite. It was just kind of interesting, the tackle overset me pretty hard, so I just knew the inside was kind of wide open. So I took it.
MH: How about playing against the run? I know with your size — weighing in at 238 pounds — that’s something that has come up. Did you feel maybe a step behind in that regard today?
BT: I feel like I fit right in. There’s definitely room for improvement, room for me to get better. Just being a little bit more physical and more involved in the run game. But I felt like I did pretty good today.
MH: Is there a target weight you have for your pro day?
BT: Yesterday I weighed in at 238 [pounds] and I just want to be at least like 240-something at my pro day and I feel like I’ll have no problem getting there.
MH: Do you have a guy that you model your game after?
BT: I looked at Myles Garrett for a while now. He’s somebody that I’ve always kind of looked at ever since he was in college. Brian burns as well. I feel like me and him have a few similarities. You know, the way that we can move a little bit and bend around the edge.
MH: Did you get a chance to talk with the Raiders while you are in Vegas and how did your conversation go?
BT: Yes, I actually got talked to them earlier today. The conversation went pretty well. I had a sit down with a scout who came to look at me at my school during the season. So we were kind of familiar with each other. Great conversation.
MH: Last question for you. Pretend I’m a GM and I’m looking to use a pick on you. What type of player am I going to get?
BT: You’re going to be getting someone ready who is ready to come work hard every day no matter what. No matter what’s going on in my life, no matter how I feel, sore, aching pain, no matter what I’m gonna compete.
I’m someone who has freakish athletic ability, who can do a lot of things for you. No matter what you asked me to do, I feel like I can get it done for about
Thompson isn’t lying when he says he has freakish athletic ability. At Baylor, he once won a slam-dunk competition at halftime of a basketball game by jumping over two of his teammates.