It may seem like I’m picking on Tennessee (or outspoken defensive players), but all of the talk and hype surrounding Volunteer linebacker (and All-American) Raynoch Thompson—particularly going into the 2000 Fiesta Bowl—makes him an irresistible pick as a featured Huskerkill player.
I recounted Peyton Manning’s day in the 1998 Orange Bowl, a game in which Thompson also appeared. Thompson did manage a very respectable 11 tackles in the contest, but he still didn’t prevent the Huskers from rushing for over 400 yards, passing for over 10 yards per attempt, scoring 42 points, or converting 30 first downs.
The following year, Thompson was a key component of the Vols' national championship team and became something of a vocal leader for the team. He had the following to say about the 1998 Orange Bowl:
"I was mad, I was angry, I was frustrated," he said Tuesday. "I have never been embarrassed that way on a football field before. I have never had a worse feeling than I had after that game. I've been carrying it around in the back of my mind, and I can't get it out of there."
He went on to say about the rematch:
"This is about revenge," he said. "This is about getting even. Yes, I want revenge. This is about waiting two years for that chance and it's here."
The Volunteers did manage to be more competitive in the Fiesta Bowl, but they still managed to yield 321 rushing yards (including back-breaking, clock-eating touchdown drives of 96 and 99 yards) and close to 10 yards per passing attempt, and ended up losing by a 31-21 margin.
Quotes from Thompson after the game were harder to find than a self-deprecating remark from Terrell Owens.
Things didn’t necessarily get better for the linebacker after the game. He declared early for the NFL draft, only to be drafted in the second round by the Arizona Cardinals (ironically in the same state where the Fiesta Bowl is played!).
After 5 years in pro football purgatory he got a look from the Green Bay Packers (who released him), and he retired.
You wonder if he still can't get those games out of his mind, or if they just got lost in a sea of embarrassing losses that came with playing with the Arizona Cardinals.