Two years after making history as the oldest player to ever participate in a college football game, former Austin College football player Tom Thompson's Kangaroo jersey has been put on display in the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Indiana.
Thompson took the field in 2009, kicking an extra point against Trinity University at the age of 61. His record was broken this year by Alan Moore of Faulkner University, who also appeared in a game at the age of 61 but was a few months older than Thompson at the time of his participation. This fall, the College Football Hall of Fame announced it would be putting the jerseys of Moore, Thompson, and Ed Barretto of Ashland University, who appeared in a game in 1997 at age 60, in a display of the oldest student-athletes in college football history. It was Barretto's record that Thompson broke in 2009.
"I didn't come to Austin College for any records," said Thompson. "What I got was a great life experience."
The idea to return to football after not having played for more than 40 years came to Thompson when he saw news reports about 59-year-old Mike Flint, who earned a spot as a linebacker and special teams player for Sul Ross State University in 2007. Flint's ability to play college football at that age inspired Thompson to begin work on a book entitled "Fourth Quarter Fitness," about the ability to maintain good health throughout life and what enables an older person to continue being active and pursue such dreams as participating in athletics.
Thompson credits Austin College vice president for student affairs and athletics Tim Millerick, former president Oscar Page and former head football coach Ronnie Gage for making his dream become a reality. He also credits head athletic trainer Amanda Parsley, who worked closely with him during his rehabilitation and training process, noting "she treated me as an athlete, and not just an old guy."
As part of the process of becoming NCAA eligible, Thompson completed an undergraduate year in 2008-2009 before he was permitted to join the team. The next year Thompson began work on his Master of Arts in Teaching degree, which he completed this semester. Even after completing his one year of eligibility, Thompson has remained closely linked to the football team, working with the kickers each of the past two seasons.
Despite the personal successes and publicity he's enjoyed after making his historic appearance on the gridiron, Thompson says his main goal was always to bring more awareness to Austin College and Kangaroo athletics, and to receive an experience few ever will.
"I cannot quantify how blessed my family and I are," said Thompson. "Each day when I go home, I'm a happier person."