OWINGS MILLS — Over dinner earlier this year at a Florida
restaurant, Baltimore Ravens All-Pro free safety Ed Reed began schooling
Christian Thompson on the various nuances of the NFL.
The South Carolina State free safety talked football with the NFL
Defensive Player of the Year, exchanging numbers and staying in touch
throughout the draft process.
"He told me to stay on top of my game," Thompson told
the Times on Sunday in a telephone interview. "He told somebody is always
trying to take your position from you and to make sure I worked harder than
everybody else. He gave me some great advice about football and life."
Little did Reed or Thompson know that they would wind up being
Now, Thompson is overjoyed to have been drafted in the fourth
round by Baltimore with the 130th overall pick where he’ll join Reed in the
"This is a blessing in disguise," Thompson said.
"It’s like a dream come true. Myself and plenty of other football players
idolize Ed Reed. To be a part of the same defense as him and being able to
learn from him is going to be a great experience. I’m just very excited. All
the hard work and dedication paid off."
The Ravens drafted Thompson because of his combination of size,
speed, physical style and interchangeable ability at free safety and strong
The 6-foot, 211-pounder ran the 40-yard dash in 4.46 to 4.50
seconds at the NFL scouting combine, faster than any other safety.
And the Ravens needed depth at safety behind Reed and strong
safety Bernard Pollard, two veterans heading into contract years.
Plus, reserve safeties Haruki Nakamura and Tom Zbikowski signed
with the Carolina Panthers and the Indianapolis Colts.
"Christian is in the mold of the guys we like on defense,"
defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. "He’s hard-nosed, tough and physical
and smart. We like his versatility.
"We don’t really consider guys box safeties or whatever. We
don’t want a one-dimensional safety that can only play down or play up. Christian
can help us in a lot of ways."
One of those areas will begin immediately on special teams.
Thompson was a gunner in college on punts, lined up on the kickoff
team and occasionally returned kickoffs.
"I love playing special teams," said Thompson, who registered
a 10-2 broad jump and bench pressed 225 pounds 18 times at the combine in
February. "I just want to get on the field anyway possible."
An all-conference selection at South Carolina State, Thompson had
66 tackles, two interceptions and one fumble recovery last season.
He finished his career with 140 tackles, three interceptions,
eight tackles for losses and two fumble recoveries.
"I’m fast enough to play free safety in open space,"
Thompson said. "And I can come down and play strong safety. I’m a laidback
type of dude, I try to stay positive at all times. This is my job. I’m going to
work hard and try to fight my way onto the field."
An outside linebacker in high school at St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort
Lauderdale, Fla., Thompson accepted a scholarship to Auburn over competing
offers from LSU, Miami, Mississippi State and Syracuse.
Thompson transferred to South Carolina State after reportedly
being dismissed from the Auburn football team for poor class attendance.
Thompson said the reason he left Auburn was primarily due to the
coaching change to Gene Chizik after being recruited to the Southeastern
Conference school by Tommy Tuberville.
"It was basically just because of the coaching change, there
was nothing off the field with me," Thompson said. "It wasn’t the
right thing for me to be there. They just had a new philosophy."
Ravens director of college scouting Eric DeCosta said the team had
good information on Thompson’s time at Auburn through director of college
scouting Joe Hortiz and area scout Andy Weidl and had no concerns about his
"He ended up at South Carolina State for various
reasons," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "I think he has learned
from whatever mistakes he has made. He’s a humble guy, and he has a little bit
of something to prove in his mind."
Ultimately, Thompson emerged as a small-school All-American as a
"It was great for me," Thompson said. "I came in
there with great expectations. I set high goals for myself. It was a fresh
start. Everything worked out because I’m in the NFL now."