(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Ted Thompson was a football player, and a darn good one. He earned a starting spot at linebacker at Southern Methodist during the glory days of the long gone Southwest Conference; this despite being undersized coming out of high school.
Thompson played against powerhouse teams like Texas, Arkansas, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma.
He even won the placekicking job for the Mustangs as a senior and was voted team captain. He started at linebacker, played on all the special teams units, and was the starting kicker.
Thompson also started on the Mustangs' baseball team.
But when the draft of 1975 was over, Thompson's name had not been called. And, young fans, in 1975 the NFL draft was 17 rounds—430 names were called, but not his.
Yet Houston Oiler coach Bum Phillips had heard about the kid from SMU who played with heart and was a special teams demon.
Phillips signed Thompson to a minimum salary contract and realistically did not expect the young kid to make the team.
But Ted Thompson did make the team.
Every year the Oilers brought in draft picks and experienced veterans to challenge Ted Thompson for his spot as the number one reserve at linebacker and special teams standout.
Every year those draft picks and flashy veterans could not unseat Thompson from the roster.
Over 10 seasons and a possible 147 games, Ted Thompson played in 146 of them. That sort of durability reminds me of another iron man, but we'll get to him later.
Though he only started eight games in his career, he contributed significantly both on defense and on special teams, helping the Oilers to a number of playoff appearances.
It could quite possibly be said that Ted Thompson is the greatest special teams player in the history of the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans.