)
Advertisement
  1. Archive

How Colin Thompson befriended a boy with down syndrome

LARA CERRI   |   Times
SP_347731_cerr_football_2 (01/05/2012, St. Petersburg) John Shulby (cq), 18, of Doylestown, PA, dances to music coming from the loudspeakers on the sidelines at the Under Armour All-America Game at Tropicana Field Thursday.  Shulby is Colin Thompson's friend and has Down's Syndrome.  [LARA CERRI, Times]
LARA CERRI | Times SP_347731_cerr_football_2 (01/05/2012, St. Petersburg) John Shulby (cq), 18, of Doylestown, PA, dances to music coming from the loudspeakers on the sidelines at the Under Armour All-America Game at Tropicana Field Thursday. Shulby is Colin Thompson's friend and has Down's Syndrome. [LARA CERRI, Times] [ CERRI, LARA | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Jan. 6, 2012|Updated Feb. 21, 2020

Colin Thompson, among the nation's top 100 college football prospects, measured up against the other studs running around Tropicana Field on Thursday night.

He stands 6 feet, 5 inches.

He weighs a solid 250.

He's a tight end with soft hands.

He's smart. Runs well. Should fit right into the University of Florida's offense next season.

If you're into those kind of things.

And let's face it, if you watched the Under Armour All-America Game on Thursday night, you probably are.

So go ahead. Do a Gator chomp.

Then consider these measurables, far too often lacking in recruits these days:

Thompson is loyal, caring, larger than life and the kind of kid who lifts up those around him.

This week, this game, was never about him.

It wasn't about making grandiose predictions, putting on his favorite team's hat or basking in the pomp and circumstance.

Nah. If Thompson is the way his coach describes him, it was about John Shulby walking out to midfield after the game, shaking hands, slapping backs, tapping helmets, being part of the show.

Just like one of the guys.

- - -

Coach Steve Devlin spent the game with Shulby, an 18-year-old red-head with Down syndrome and a sly sense of humor.

Shulby met Thompson in middle school, where both competed on the track team. Shulby threw the shot put and javelin. Thompson, who took on the responsibility of getting Shulby from event to event, threw the shot put.

They have been pals since.

"Hit it off right away,'' Thompson said. "He's a great kid.''

They don't go to the same high school, but Thompson made him part of the Archbishop Wood (Pa.) Vikings football program.

Shulby traveled to western Pennsylvania when the team played on ESPN2 earlier this season. He wore a No. 99 jersey and followed Thompson and the other captains out for every coin toss this season, where he got to make the call.

The Vikings went 14-1 and won the state championship.

When they handed out the medals in a ceremony at Wood, Shulby couldn't attend. So afterward, Thompson gathered up about 10 teammates and they surprised Shulby at home with an impromptu presentation.

"Colin brought John into everyone's life,'' Devlin said. "John made new friends. And Colin made his high school career special.''

- - -

Shulby has accomplished quite a bit on his own.

He helped illustrate a book about accepting others, creating the cover and another page inside. In the spring, he made his first hole-in-one for the high school golf team, rolling one in from 150 yards out with a 5-iron.

But it will never compare to his time as a Viking, or spending the final week this football season in Orlando and St. Petersburg with Thompson.

It didn't take long for everyone to know and like Shulby.

He got to chase balls and help out at Under Armour practices. He playfully sparred with coach Herman Edwards, and bet Steve Mariucci the white team would win. "A chocolate chip cookie,'' he said.

He changed his mind a little later, telling Mariucci he wasn't a betting man.

"Then he came back again,'' Mariucci said, "and told me I could have his cookie anyway."

"I still have it,'' he added, patting his pocket.

In a week that was about extravagance and publicity, Thompson flew under the radar, which was fine by him, as long as Shulby didn't.

"Everybody was so nice to him,'' he said. "It was so great. It was so amazing.''

Their high school journey together is over. Soon, a new one will begin.

Shulby and his parents have already booked a trip to watch the Gators play Bowling Green in the fall.

Advertisement

This site no longer supports your current browser. Please use a modern and up-to-date browser version for the best experience.

Chrome Firefox Safari Edge