TERRE HAUTE —
Terre Haute native Anthony Thompson is best known for the four years he spent at Indiana University, where he was one of the best college running backs to ever suit up.
Only three men have scored more touchdowns than Thompson — the Hoosiers’ career leader in rushing yards (5,299), carries, points and touchdowns (65) — in the history of college football.
The two-time Big Ten Most Valuable Player and two time first-team All-American lifted the Hoosiers to wins over Ohio State and Michigan during the same season in 1987 — a feat no other Indiana team has accomplished.
On Thursday at the Country Club of Terre Haute, Thompson was inducted into the Indiana Football Hall of Fame. Former coaches — Terre Haute North’s Wayne Stahley and IU’s Bill Mallory — gushed about Thompson’s work ethic and superhuman performances on the field.
But the memories Thompson shared were about the people that helped mold him into one of the city’s most celebrated figures. The bruising running back is already a member of the IU Athletics Hall of Fame — and the only IU athlete to ever have his jersey retired — along with his 2007 induction to the College Football Hall of Fame.
Thompson is a pastor in Bloomington and father of three children, living the dream at 46 years of age.
In addition to football coaches and former teammates, Thompson thanked the teachers from his childhood all the way through IU.
“When I think about the educators in my life, when they had to be so patient with me, I mean truly patient with me,” Thompson said. “I found out early in my elementary years that I had a learning disability, and there was this beautiful young lady, she was a student assistant at that time. I was in second or third grade. Judy Hadley, one thing she said about me, ‘you know AT, you have a beautiful smile. I love the way you smile.’
“That did something for me,” Thompson continued. “When you struggle academically, she looked for everything I did well. She knew I was a pretty good artist, that I liked to draw. Her husband was an art teacher for Woodrow Wilson Middle School, so she would have me over at her house and she just really took me in. She knew nothing about football or that I even played football. She made an investment in me at second or third grade.”
In his first teaching job, Vigo County School Corp. Superintendent Dan Tanoos enjoyed becoming acquainted with Thompson as a sixth-grader.
Thompson’s athletic talents were evident right away and Tanoos observed his drive to succeed.
“He worked hard in the classroom and on the athletic field,” Tanoos said. “No one compared to him, even in sixth grade. I was an OK athlete and kids look up to you and I would take the kids outside on a weekly basis. They’d go out for passes and I’d throw the football. One day, they said, ‘Mr. Tanoos, can Anthony throw the passes? He can throw them better than you.’ ”
The College Football Hall of Famer developed a passion for the sport at a young age thanks to a relative. Hubert Thompson introduced Anthony and his younger brother Ernie to Walter Payton.
“It all came from our uncle Hubert,” Ernie Thompson recalled last week. “We used to play tackle football in a room. I remember my mom yelling at him, ‘Don’t hurt those boys.’ But we were having the time of our lives.
“He was a huge Walter Payton fan. We used to all watch the Chicago Bears. We found out about [Payton’s] work ethic.”
And Anthony’s running style resembled Payton in that he was relentless, Ernie said.
“I ran into a guy two years ago. He says, ‘Hey, your brother stepped on my chest.’ I had one of those excuse-me moments. The guy said, ‘Yeah, I went to try to tackle him and he stepped on my chest.’ That kind of reckless-abandon, take-no-prisoners attitude.”
John Collett was a senior fullback when Anthony Thompson debuted as a sophomore for Terre Haute North in the fall of 1983.
“I was always blocking for him. Half the time, I might end up on the ground. I remember being on the ground, my head was turned to the side and I was looking Anthony in the eye, but he was still running. He was six inches off the ground and had 10 more yards in him. I never saw that before or after that and I played four years of college football [at Rose-Hulman],” Collett said. “If I was that far off the ground, I got six more inches. I knew right away he was the real deal.”
Anthony Thompson credited Collett and that 1984 senior class for helping instill in him that strong work ethic.
“I was a little sophomore and didn’t know anything about high school football,” Thompson said Thursday. “[Collett] took me under his wing and taught me everything about hard work and perseverance.”
Collett said his class knew it had to outwork opponents to succeed.
“A lot of our senior class weren’t the most talented kids, but they were really hard workers. We were strong in the weightroom and on the field they were all mentally tough,” Collett said.
Thompson was like a sponge when it came to football, whether it was quickly learning the details of reading the blocks of Collett and his North teammates or trying to emulate one of the all-time greats.
“One thing he got from Walter Payton, Walter was the guy that when he was on the goal line, he’d go up and over. Anthony wasn’t noted for that,” Stahley said. “When it got down to goal line, there was nothing anybody could do about it.”
Coaching Thompson was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“In 32 years of coaching, I had a lot of talented players and a lot of other guys that worked really hard. But very few that were both, and he was one of those,” Stahley said.
“The interesting thing about AT in high school, very coachable. Took great instruction. He’d do whatever the coaches asked him to do,” Tanoos said. “Always a humble, kind, gentle soul. But when you got him on the football field, he was a different person.”
Mallory saw those characteristics in the Parade All-American as well. On the drive back to Bloomington with an assistant coach after Thompson committed to the Hoosiers, “it was tough to keep the car on the road. We were two excited people,” he said.
After missing the first few games due to injury, Thompson ran for 806 yards as a freshman.
“After that, he never missed a game,” Mallory said.
He then went for 1,014 and 12 touchdowns as a sophomore. He exploded for 1,686 yards and 26 TDs as a junior then tacked on more than 1,700 yards and 24 TDs as a senior.
“Our program was struggling. We needed to get it going in a positive direction. We wanted to win. We wanted to succeed. I was sick and tired of hearing about ‘Can you win at all at Indiana?’ You’re darned right you can. We got this young man. It helped tremendously,” Mallory said.
Ernie Thompson, who followed his brother to a standout IU career and on to the National Football League, remembers running stadium stairs with a weight vest on with his older brother during high school, so it was no surprise that Anthony Thompson was known to get better the more times he touched the ball.
That stamina was on display in 1989 when Indiana defeated Wisconsin 45-17 as Thompson ran for a then-NCAA-record 377 yards on an incredible 52 carries.
“Our quarterback, Dave Schnell, hurt himself in warmups, so I told Anthony he was going to carry it more. I remember his response: ‘Whatever it takes to win, coach.’ That’s what you want right there,” Mallory said.
Thompson told the Associated Press after that game, “I think if I was a little faster, I could have got maybe 500 yards, the way they were blocking out there today.”
Mallory said Thompson’s mentality was what sticks with him after all these years.
“He had attitude. That to me is the hub of a person. That’s where it all starts. He was a hard, hard worker. … He was willing to do the extra,” Mallory said. “He was focused and wanted to take it to the next level each year. He was going to make himself as good as he could be.”
Thompson has always been the type of person to credit those around him, but he’s been an inspiration to those close to him. Not just for what he accomplished but the way he carried himself.
“He grew up a poor young man. I think he knew that athletics, football was his key out of poverty. He had a focus on where he wanted to get in life. You can tell when you’re better than others, but he was always so humble and kind,” Tanoos said.
“As good of a football player that he was, he’s the best big brother that I could ask for as far as speaking positive of affirmation into my life,” Ernie Thompson said.
TERRE HAUTE —
Terre Haute native Anthony Thompson is best known for the four years he spent at Indiana University, where he was one of the best college running backs to ever suit up.
- High School
Linton, Clay City coaches pulling for each other Saturday in IHSAA basketball regionals
The only Wabash Valley boys basketball teams remaining in the IHSAA state tournament are the two that tied for first place in the SouthWestern Indiana Athletic Conference.
Linton (Class 2A) and Clay City (Class A) each finished 7-1 in the SWIAC. Clay City handed Linton its only conference loss Feb. 18, a 58-50 decision, while Clay City’s only SWIAC setback was by a 62-51 score at Eastern Greene on Jan. 17.
Paris rally falls short in Super Sectional
When Petersburg (PORTA) finally showed it was possible to hit a free throw on the west end of the Illinois-Springfield gym Tuesday night — after 12 misses in a row — it spelled the end of a high school comeback by Paris that looked for awhile like it would be one for the ages.
“I thought we had ‘em,” Tiger coach Shawn Nugent said after the Class 2A Super Sectional game won by the Bluejays 58-49.
Paris seeking finals berth tonight
The Paris Tigers may be the underdogs again tonight when they play at the Class 2A Springfield Super Sectional, or they may be the favorites. What’s already clear as the Illinois boys basketball tournaments for the smaller schools enter their final week is that rankings and reputation don’t matter, particularly to the Tigers.
Class 2A girls: Rick Risinger coaches Heritage to fifth state title
Rick Risinger spoke this past week about defense being the key to securing a win against a talented Fort Wayne Canterbury girls basketball squad in the Class 2A state championship game.
Coach Risinger’s Heritage Christian squad rose to the occasion Saturday in Hulman Center, holding the Cavaliers to 33-percent shooting to claim the school’s fifth state title since joining the IHSAA in 2003.
The Eagles won their first title since 2009 by a score of 64-61.
Class A girls: Oregon-Davis holds off Vincennes Rivet
Oregon-Davis jumped out to a 15-2 lead when senior Alicia McIntosh drilled a 3-pointer in Saturday’s Class A state championship for girls high school basketball.
The Bobcats stretched that lead to as large as 17 before halftime, and still led by double figures with three minutes remaining.
Class 3A girls: Western over Evansville Mater Dei 38-35
Like Fort Wayne Canterbury in the Class 2A championship, two-time defending Class 2A champion Evansville Mater Dei found the going much more tough when moving up one class due to the IHSAA’s “Team Success Factor” legislation.
Mater Dei (26-2), which had an average margin of victory of 27 points throughout the season, struggled against Western’s 2-3 zone all night long in falling to the Panthers 38-35.
Class 4A girls: Bedford North Lawrence wins second straight title
Damon Bailey guided Bedford North Lawrence to a second straight state championship in his first year as head coach.
Bailey, an assistant on the Stars’ unbeaten Class 4A champions in 2013, watched his team hold off a scrappy Penn squad for a 51-41 victory Saturday night.
Central Catholic rallies to defeat Rockville
It was an old story in a new location Saturday for the boys basketball team from Lafayette Central Catholic High School.
Clay City wins third straight sectional
Clay City, the two-time defending champion of the IHSAA Class A Sectional No. 57, took the floor at White River Valley High School with a chip on its shoulder Saturday night.
Linton pulls away late to win at North Knox
Defending smartly and playing the offensive tempo like a finely tuned violin, Linton’s Miners dominated the fourth quarter of a previously air-tight high school basketball game to defeat South Knox 57-45 and repeat as Class 2A Sectional 47 champions.
Damon Bailey among coaches directing daughters at Hulman Center on Saturday
Father-daughter bonding was among the themes Saturday at Hulman Center as Terre Haute played host to the IHSAA girls basketball state finals for a third straight year.
Class 4A title favorite Bedford North Lawrence looked to repeat as champions late Saturday night. Former BNL state champion and Indiana Hoosier great Damon Bailey led his Stars into the game with a pair of daughters on the court. Junior Alexa Bailey, wearing No. 22 of course, is a Butler recruit and sophomore Loren is a reserve for the Stars.
Owen Valley, Edgewood in sectional final again
Things haven’t changed that much in the Class 3A boys basketball sectional. Northview was in the field for the first time and hosted the semifinals Friday night. But for the second year in a row, Edgewood and Owen Valley will play for the Sectional 28 championship tonight.
Temples’ 3-pointers help Paris advance
The prudent thing would have been to pull the basketball out, wait for an opponent to foul and run as much clock as possible in the final minute of the Illinois Class 2A Westville Sectional on Friday night. Audie Temples was thinking dagger.
Ailing Wilkey helps Rockville advance to title game
For part of Friday, doubt existed about whether flu-stricken Rockville standout Keiontre’ Wilkey would be able to play in the first semifinal game of the Class A North Vermillion Sectional for boys basketball. The junior guard gutted it out, however, and tallied 17 points to help lead the Rox over the host high school 61-53. That sent them into tonight’s sectional championship game against No. 7-ranked Lafayette Central Catholic.
Preps: Late free throws help Linton beat North Knox
Linton hit 4 of 5 free throws in the final minute and hung on to defeat streaking North Knox 47-46 in the semifinals of the Class 2A North Knox Sectional for boys high school basketball.
Former Terre Haute resident Rick Risinger looking for fifth state title in Hulman Center
An accomplished group of girls basketball coaches will make their way into Hulman Center on Saturday for the IHSAA state finals.
Damon Bailey, 1990 Mr. Basketball for state champion Bedford North Lawrence and former Indiana University great, is the most familiar name to Hoosier basketball fanatics. In his first year as a girls varsity coach, Bailey leads BNL into action in the 4A state championship game.
With 590 career wins, Fort Wayne Canterbury coach Wayne Kreiger is already a member of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.
Behind senior Miss Basketball candidate Maura Muensterman, Steve Goans leads Evansville Mater Dei into the Class 3A title game on the heels of consecutive 2A titles.
No answer: Spears scores 30 as Martinsvlle ends TH South’s season
Terre Haute South ran into a championship performance Wednesday night in Game 2 of the Class 4A Avon Sectional for boys high school basketball. Martinsville’s Troy Spears scored 30 points while leading the Artesians to a 65-44 victory that ended South’s season.
North falls to No. 5 Brownsburg in Class 4A Avon Sectional
Terre Haute North did not bow out of the boys high school basketball tournament Tuesday night like a team on a seven-game losing streak.
The Patriots executed their gameplan, battled back from a double-digit deficit and forced Class 4A No. 5-ranked Brownsburg to hit free throws to win the opener of the Class 4A Avon Sectional.
Brownsburg (19-2) hit six straight free throws in the final 1 minute, 15 seconds to hold off the Patriots 51-47.
Two sets of Eels win at WRV Sectional
There’ll be no Cinderella story in Dugger to end this boys high school basketball season, and a spirited upset bid also fell short Tuesday night at the Class A White River Valley Sectional.
Defensive pressure and depth made the difference in both games, as Eminence ended the Union season — perhaps its last, at least as a public school — by a 59-46 score and Clay City pulled away in the second half for a 53-44 win over Shakamak.
Paris knocks off 23-2 Clinton Central in overtime sectional thriller
Paris’ boys basketball team has learned a lot in a late-season run of success, but the one thing that set the Tigers apart on Tuesday in Class 2A Westville Sectional semifinal game was composure.
The Tigers never got rattled, never flinched and got the ultimate reward.
BOYS SECTIONAL ROUNDUP: Linton holds off Sullivan at North Knox
Linton and Eastern posted victories in the opening round of the North Knox Class 2A Sectional on Tuesday.
Linton led most of the way to defeat Sullivan 51-43 in the first game. Eastern Greene bested North Central 62-42 in the nightcap.
Linton is 16-6 and will take on North Knox and Eastern Greene faces South Knox in the semifinals on Friday. North Knox takes an 11-game winning streak into the action.
Tough roads ahead: Terre Haute North faces big challenges in its sectional
With the hope that the obligatory snow is already on the ground, high school boys basketball sectionals begin today in Indiana, and for one Wabash Valley team in Illinois.
South swimmers fall short of lofty goals at state finals
Sometimes the journey is more rewarding than the destination.
That would best describe Terre Haute South’s performances Saturday in the 77th annual IHSAA boys swimming and diving state championships at the IU Natatorium.
Center Grove deals Terre Haute North 7th loss in row
Terre Haute North and Center Grove – two teams that haven’t won much lately – struggled to put the finishing touch against the other on Friday at North.
Prep roundup: Casey falls at Robinson Regional; Paris posts upset win at home
Teutopolis finished strong Friday night to defeat Casey 47-36 and win the Robinson Class 2A Regional for boys basketball teams.
Casey, Paris to play in regional title games
Championships of Illinois regional boys high school basketball tournaments will be decided tonight.
AMEY TAKES AIM: Bringing you the Amey Teams for girls basketball
Our Wabash Valley teams won’t be represented when the Indiana girls state basketball finals return again to Hulman Center on March 8 (even though the Class 4A title will probably be decided this weekend when Lawrence North plays Bedford North Lawrence in a semistate game).
I wish some of our girls teams had been able to play longer for a purely selfish reason: that might have given me an opportunity to see one or two of their games.
South boys fall to Southport, finish regular season 8-14
Terre Haute South got an up-close look Thursday night at what a Conference Indiana championship boys basketball team looks like. And Southport is big and quick.
Southport, led by 6-foot-10 sophomore Joey Brunk and junior guard Malik Bennett overpowered South’s Braves 61-49 at Southport Fieldhouse. Brunk had 16 points and 12 rebounds, while Bennett scored 21 points.
VIDEO: Wilhelm leads South swimmers into state finals
Christian Wilhelm plans to compete in the distance freestyle when he gets to the University of Illinois-Chicago’s downtown campus.
Wilhelm emerged as a state qualifier in the 500-yard freestyle and 200 freestyle as a junior for Terre Haute South. But his senior season took a different turn and he’s hoping to make a big splash in a new event.
Casey advances to regional title game
Casey will be in the championship game of the Class 2A Robinson Regional for boys high school basketball teams Friday night. The Warriors gained their spot in the title tilt with a 55-42 victory over Marshall on Wednesday.
- More High School Headlines
- Linton, Clay City coaches pulling for each other Saturday in IHSAA basketball regionals