Aztecs’ safety, Tariq Thompson Sr. ready for NFL spotlight

Credit: SDSU Athletics

Credit: SDSU Athletics

An interview with SDSU Aztecs’ safety Tariq Thompson Sr. as he prepares for the NFL spotlight.

The pre-draft process for draft-eligible football players is looking a bit different this year due to many health and safety protocols triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

EVT caught up with one of the stars of the San Diego State University defense, safety/cornerback Tariq Thompson Sr. We discussed his career at SDSU as well as his daily routine as an NFL Draft prospect. 

Thompson immediately impacted the Aztecs, racking up 40 tackles and four interceptions in his Freshman season on the Mesa.

While his success on the gridiron has been well documented over the last four years, football is not the only sport Thompson has excelled at. “I originally was debating whether I wanted to go to the NBA or NFL. I played Varsity basketball in high school as well as Varsity football. Once I received that scholarship for football, though, that really changed everything,” Thompson said. I think it’s safe to say he made the right decision as Thompson made the Mountain West All-Conference team in all four years he played at SDSU. Yeah, you read that right. ALL FOUR YEARS. 

His versatility is what really sets Thompson apart from others. He aligned mostly in the slot while in man and zone coverage, both of which showcase his ability to shut down receivers and not let them get any type of separation on their route. Thompson was also tasked occasionally with playing as a “help” safety over the top in a two-high safety concept which highlighted his natural ball skills and play recognition ability.

Thompson is a real swiss army knife for the Aztecs that could be aligned in multiple different spots and still significantly impact the game. When asked to do a lot for the Aztec defense, he made it look easy. That is a tribute to his high football I.Q.

After a stellar collegiate career, Thompson’s focus now shifts toward the upcoming NFL draft in April. I asked Tariq what a typical day looks like for him: “It starts with running sessions in the morning — lots of technique and footwork drills, then we move on to the weight room after that,” Thompson explained. “The afternoon is usually for any calls or interviews that I may have with teams; mostly just introductory meetings,” Thompson said. He is a humble but confident guy. NFL scouts and executives will see that through his play on the field as well as in his demeanor in interviews. Gone are the days (at least for now) of a scout-filled combine and pro-day to watch these prospects showcase their skills. Scouting this time around is being done mostly through workout videos and grinding over the college tape.

SDSU

Every team in the NFL needs players that can tackle. While scouts grind the aforementioned tape on the defender, they will see that Thompson excels at wrapping up the ball carrier in the open field, whether it’s against the run or in special teams. In the case of Tariq Thompson Sr., he embodies many qualities as a player that will be valuable to NFL rosters.

We spoke about his strengths and the things which set him apart from his peers: “My intelligence,” Thompson said, “I’m able to diagnose plays very quickly. I’m also a great tackler with great ball skills,” Thompson confidently added.

His career as an Aztec certainly backs up those words. Thompson totaled 210 tackles and came down with 11 interceptions across his four years for SDSU. Perhaps his most memorable performance came in 2019, where he recorded a strip-sack and an interception in the same game against BYU. Quarterback Zach Wilson is a projected Top-5 pick in this upcoming NFL Draft. 

When asked about a goal Thompson had at the next level, “Super Bowl champion,” Thompson quickly replied. That kind of win-first mentality is another reason why NFL teams would be wise to snag Thompson in April’s NFL Draft. No matter which team drafts Thompson, he will always have a fanbase rooting for his success right here in San Diego.

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Nick Coppo
sports writer for the East Village Times and the Daily Aztec / staunch believer in Philip Rivers being in the Hall of Fame / eternal optimist

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