Derrick Thompson ’07 Shares His Davidson Story
By his own admission, Derrick Thompson’s Davidson story is a “little bit weird.” With several college acceptance offers on the table and a check made out to Wake Forest, a trip back to the locker room for a forgotten gym bag changed his life.
Hailing from Charlotte and having attended Providence Day as a three-sport athlete (football, track and wrestling), Derrick Thompson ’07 had tentatively decided to attend Wake Forest, and his mother had already written the check. And then one day changed everything. He ran back to his high school to grab a bag he had forgotten and ran into a Davidson recruiter who was visiting someone else on his football team. The recruiter struck up a conversation with Derrick, asking if he played football.
Piquing Derrick’s interest, he provided the recruiter with game film (not even a highlight tape – game film) and accepted an offer for an official campus visit a few days later. His visit to campus occurred during a power outage, but Davidson had set Derrick up with Frankie Jones ’05, a current football player at the time whose mother just happened to have taught school with Derrick’s mother when they first got out of college. It was a great visit, and it turned his attention to Davidson. The final decision to become a Wildcat was actually made at the shot put pit at a track meet during a conversation with then-rival school track athlete Jonathon Hubbard ’07 who had planned to attend Dartmouth. After talking to Jonathon about his Davidson visit, they both switched gears and decided on Davidson, where they would play football.
Derrick went home and told his mother to tear up that check to Wake.
“Like I said, very weird story, and it was absolutely the right choice for me,” he said. “I loved Davidson, and I’m just glad I forgot my bag down in my locker that day.”
The Davidson scholar-athlete experience had a profound effect on Derrick and the way he would go on to live his life. It instilled in him a strong sense of community service, a commitment to lifelong relationships, a strong work ethic and an innate desire to give back.
In addition to working at Wells Fargo, Derrick currently serves on the board of Freedom School Partners with former teammates Kevin Wright ’07 (Chair) and Brandon Zeigler ’05, along with several other Davidson alums. He stays connected with former teammates scattered across the globe via social media. But when he feels the need for a mini-reunion with local teammates (pre-COVID!), he doesn’t need to go very far as several of them are right down the hall from him at work. They meet up at games and weddings and are now hitting the baby circuit and birthday parties. Derrick and his wife, Jennifer, recently welcomed their first child, a daughter they named Caroline.
Because of all he was able to accomplish as a scholar-athlete at Davidson, he approaches every work situation with the attitude that nothing is insurmountable or is ever as bad as it seems. He knows how to work through adversity and to “make do with what you have.”
“You never think that you are in the worst situation ever, because, you know what, I’ve had all this work due while I was on a bus to the middle of Iowa, played a game, got back on the bus, made it back, got the work done, and it all worked out,” he said. “I take that approach with work. It makes you push and find ways to get better and accomplish your goals and has definitely impacted the way I approach things on a day-to-day basis.”
Derrick earned an academic scholarship from Davidson, and he recognizes the importance of giving back, honoring those who supported his education and making sure future scholar-athletes are positioned for success.
“I think back to how many people invested in me during my time at Davidson that didn’t have to do anything – they didn’t have any kind of relationship with me… For me, it’s just paying it forward,” said Derrick “For all those people who invested in me, I am going to do the same for the next guy, and I am sure they will in turn do it for someone else. I think that’s kind of what makes Davidson special – people really want to see other Davidson folks do really well.”
Looking at Davidson football today, Derrick is impressed by how far the program has come and how deeply the players benefit from the support of alums, families and others.
“That’s what everyone hopes for — that those who come after them have a better experience,” he said. “I hope my contributions improve experiences for the guys and enable the coaches to go out and find the kid who, in the past, they may not have had the resources to reach. Being able to make Davidson accessible for whoever may want to play is what drives me to continue to give and push others to give. It takes us all chipping back in to make that work.”
Derrick remains grateful and is impressed with the current staff and how they keep everyone connected to the program.
“They do a great job connecting alums back to the team,” he said. “I feel like I’m really invested – hearing about these kids and all the great things they are doing in the community and all the good work they are doing on the field. Better things are on the horizon.”
In addition to his career and other community involvement, Derrick coaches Pop Warner Football and brings his players to the Davidson spring game where they are welcomed on the field by Coach Abell.
“I use the Davidson Football Program as an example for the kids I coach,” Derrick said. “Being able to tie my current work to my past college life is really cool to me.”