November 5, 2008

Loudoun's first family of football

There is a T-shirt often seen around Stone Bridge High School, with deep blue letters on solid black, that says it all: Mickey Knows Football.

Mickey is Mickey Thompson, the only head football coach in the Bulldogs' nine-year history. Since 2002, he has guided the Ashburn school to a record of 80-9, including six district titles, four regional titles, four perfect regular seasons and the 2007 Virginia Division 5 title.

If Mickey knows football, then it's a good bet his sons Zach and Patrick also have picked up a thing or two.

The twins, who have committed to play football at Wake Forest University next fall, are Stone Bridge seniors with near-4.0 GPAs. Zach is a tall, meaty defensive lineman and tight end while Patrick is a dual-threat quarterback with a 4.6-second 40-yard time.

For the Thompsons, sports have always been a natural part of family life. Amid his vocational duties of teaching and coaching, Mickey has always found the time to help coach his sons in basketball, baseball and football since they were 7 years old.

But he has always been dad first, coach second. The boys refer to him as "Dad" almost exclusively, even on the football field.

"He's been coaching us since an early age, so I was always comfortable with him as the coach," Zach Thompson said. "He's our dad who's also our coach."

It's about attitude

The strong work ethic that their father has instilled in them is obvious from Zach and Patrick's own dogged attitude toward sports.

"Sports to me is about answering to yourself," Mickey Thompson said. "I really don't care what other people think. What I care about is whether I'm doing everything that I can."

His sons speak readily of their father's impact on their desire to work for success.

"I grew up around football, and he's taught us how to think: knowing that you're better than somebody and outworking them," Patrick said.

Being mentored to be mentally tough has shaped Zach's thinking, too.

"He makes me work harder in the offseason. He shows the mentality that I have because of him," Zach said. "He can be strict, but he's also fun."

Mickey says his wife, Kathy, an English teacher at Stone Bridge, is actually the more strict of the two.

"She's been the one that has always been on them about working hard and being intense when they play," Mickey said. "We've made this part of our family. It's not just a job. She's everywhere that we are. The football program here at Stone Bridge is a part of our lives."

Run to the top

After playing for Jerry Smith at Broad Run High School, Mickey Thompson became an offensive lineman at the University of Virginia. He began his coaching career at Orange County High School in 1982, in charge of tight ends and linebackers.

"I really loved playing for [Smith], and I loved high school football," he said. "College football is a different story. It's more of a business. But I loved that high school experience."

He returned in 1985 to Loudoun County as a member of the football staff at Park View High School, eventually becoming the Patriots' head coach for a 10-year stint starting in 1990. In 1999, Park View was in the Virginia Division 4 championship game.

In 2000, he moved to the new Stone Bridge High School to be closer to where his kids were playing youth sports. He continued developing the single-wing offense he began at Park View in the late 1990s. By 2003, the Bulldogs were two-time Region II champions.

In 2007, in his 18th season as a head football coach, Mickey Thompson earned his first state title. His twin boys were instrumental in the championship contest, as Zach was part of a defensive front that limited opponent Potomac High School to 66 rushing yards and Patrick threw four touchdown passes in the 38-0 rout.

"It was one of the all-time highs you could experience," Mickey said. "It was an exciting time."

In 2008, the Thompsons are primed to repeat their run to the championship, taking their 10-0 record into the Northern Region playoffs, which start Nov. 7. The fact that the family's time together on the football field will conclude whenever Stone Bridge's run in the playoffs ends is being looked at somewhat differently by the two generations of Thompsons.

"I don't let myself think about that," Mickey said. "It will be really ..." The coach's voice trails off.

The Thompson twins already have adopted a philosophical attitude toward their last weeks under their dad's tutelage.

"It's definitely going to be sad," Zach said. "I'm just going to take it game by game and appreciate it."

Patrick, who recently suffered a high right ankle sprain and is questionable for the region playoffs, agreed with his twin.

"Every game we play, I'm just going to try to take it all in," he said.

A look to the future

After this school year, Zach and Patrick will move to Winston-Salem. Mickey will get to work on his 2009 squad, which will lose 21 starters. Many players from this year's graduating class grew up playing youth sports with Zach and Patrick, so Mickey has been close to this year's crop for a long time.

He also will continue helping the athletic exploits of his 10-year-old son, Joe, and 9-year-old daughter, Amy. The celebrated head coach has no intention of leaving his post with the Bulldogs.

"I know I'm going to be here for at least another three or four more years, as long as I don't get fired," he said with a smile. "The players that follow have got to carry on the Stone Bridge work ethic and we'll be fine."

Having watched their father's exploits their entire lives, Zach and Patrick hold aspirations of donning coaches' hats themselves when their playing days are over.

"Seeing what he does as a high school coach, being around players, joking around and having fun -- I think that would be pretty cool to not lose that," Patrick said.

Zach eyes his father's success as an enticement to enter the coaching profession.

"Yes, definitely," he responds when asked if he'd like to become a coach. "Because of the success that he's had. I want to run my own ship."

Mickey Thompson says he and Kathy believe they have given their eldest children the opportunity to achieve their own goals and dreams.

"We just wanted to make sure that we gave them the chance," he said. "That's one of the reasons you get them involved in high-level sports as early as you can: so they learn to work, so they realize there are other great athletes out there. There has to be a purpose to playing."

By Jason S. Rufner
Source: Loudoun Times-Mirror is your source for: College Football | Football Recruiting | College Basketball | Basketball Recruiting | College Baseball | High School | College Merchandise
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