West Virginia receiver juggles fatherhood and football

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Jordan Thompson is playing double duty this fall: receiver by day, daddy by night.

"Squirt," as his West Virginia teammates call the sophomore, has juggled family and football for the past month and a half since he and girlfriend Courtney Sandy welcomed daughter Raedyn Skye Thompson into the world on Aug. 19.

"She's adorable," Thompson said Tuesday, smiling. "She's beautiful."

This roller-coaster adventure began for Thompson when, back home in Katy, Texas, over Christmas break, he answered a phone call from Sandy. She was pregnant.

Sandy, a former member of the West Virginia cheer team who graduated with a nutrition degree in December, waited through an empty moment, a rare silence on the other end of the line.

Then Thompson replied: "Don't worry, we'll be fine."

After a productive freshman season in 2012, when Thompson had 13 catches for 85 yards, the Mountaineers' top returning receiver was now fighting for a lot more than playing time.

"It's nothing I can't handle," Thompson said. "God's not going to put things in my life that I can't handle."

Thompson found time between summer workouts and fall training camp to go to each of Sandy's appointments, but the couple has had plenty of support along the way.

Sandy's parents have driven to Morgantown often from their home in Cowen, W.Va., and Thompson's mother, Adele, flew from Texas to help in mid-August. Then there's the West Virginia football team.

"Every day [during fall camp] the guys were asking me, 'Is she here yet? Is she here yet?' " Thompson said. "As soon as I posted the picture of her, I got a lot of phone calls, and they couldn't wait to see her."

Dozie Ezemma and Maurice Zereoue visited the hospital the next day. Will Clarke, K.J. Myers and Dante Campbell quickly became "Uncle Will," "Uncle Kenny" and "Uncle Donnie." And, not to be outdone, Darwin Cook gave Raedyn her first nickname: "Pint."

Squirt and Pint -- perfect, huh?

After Thompson, who is 5 feet 7 and 168 pounds, posted a photo of Raedyn sitting on the couch last month, fellow receiver Ivan McCartney quipped, "Daddy, if you sat next to me, we'd be the same size!"

Life hasn't been all roses for Thompson, though.

He battled a shoulder injury that kept him out of all but the first week of fall camp and dropped him to the bottom of the crowded receiver depth chart. Through the first four weeks, he has just one catch for 5 yards.

Though he can't explain it, Thompson was placed on a self-described "probation" by the coaching staff the past two months, largely absent on the field and unavailable to the media.

It wasn't until West Virginia's 30-21 victory against then-No. 11 Oklahoma State last Saturday that Thompson returned to form as an integral cog of the offense. He had three catches for 30 yards, including a diving, highlight-reel reception on third down to preserve a late scoring drive.

But he struggled in the return game, hauling in three punts for minus-3 total yards, including one return where he backpedaled to his 3 and signaled for a fair catch.

"Jordan made a mistake," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. "He lines up on the 10, and if he backs up, he doesn't catch it -- that's kind of the cardinal rule in punt return. I'll be darned if he didn't back up 7 whole yards and catch it."

Holgorsen has put his trust in the speedy Thompson, though, and is auditioning him for a kick returner role this week.

Thompson said the daily transition from athlete to father "hasn't really been a huge change," and every late night and early morning is welcomed inspiration.

"I just know on the field that I have a mission in football, and that's to succeed personally and as a team," Thompson said. "When my daughter came, that even gave me more motivation to succeed. I want to give her a chance.

"I first have to get my degree, because if I get my degree she has to get her degree. There's no question about it."

Raedyn was just 3 weeks old when she paid her first visit to Milan Puskar Stadium to watch Thompson and the Mountaineers defeat Georgia State Sept. 14.

"She slept through the whole thing," Sandy said.


Stephen J. Nesbitt: snesbitt@post-gazette.com, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.


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