Uncertainty swirled around Florida State last month when receiver Warren Thompson publicly accused the Seminoles of lying about health issues amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
It was unclear how the program would handle another communication breakdown in coach Mike Norvell’s first nine months. Or whether the former four-star recruit from Armwood High would remain on the team. Or whether the locker room would splinter from the serious charges.
Three and a half weeks later, the answers have become clear.
“I feel safe,” Thompson said Tuesday, “and I’m ready to play ball.”
FSU is ready for that, too. Not only is Thompson back in good standing with the team, he’s also on track to earn his first career start Saturday against Georgia Tech.
The reversal was hard to envision when Thompson questioned his program’s leaders on social media. He said they were “only worried about their own future rather than their own athletes,” and that he was ridiculed for speaking up. When star receiver Tamorrion Terry amplified Thompson’s concerns, the situation looked ready to snowball.
But the controversy quickly fizzled out. Many teammates disputed Thompson’s characterization, and Norvell didn’t back down. Three days after his post gained national attention, Thompson met with Norvell to clear the air and apologize.
“It’s been a long journey,” Thompson said. “I didn’t want that (incident) to dictate all the hard work that I put in. I’m just glad that it can still pay off.”
It paid off, in part, because Norvell allowed it to. Norvell could have allowed a grudge to develop, publicly or privately, after one of his players publicly questioned his program’s commitment to safety. He didn’t.
Instead, he and Thompson had what Norvell called “some real conversations” to work through what happened (and didn’t happen).
“I love Warren, I really do — the type of young man he is, the heart he has,” Norvell said. "This is an unprecedented time of things that we’ve had to go through. Fear is real for some of these kids.
“We were able to work though that process.”
That process continued when Thompson rejoined the team after a short hiatus. Since then, he has drawn positive reviews.
Tight end Camren McDonald said Thompson has been committed in practice while keeping a positive outlook.
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“When he’s in the right state of mind,” McDonald said, “he’s almost unstoppable.”
Thompson will finally have the chance to prove it on the field. Despite catching 50 passes, including 10 for touchdowns, in his last two seasons at Armwood, Thompson has yet to make a major impact at FSU. His college production has been limited to 10 games, six receptions and 91 yards.
But the tools that made him one of the country’s top recruits in 2018 are still there. He’s big (6-feet-3, 201 pounds) with the ability to use his size as a physical blocker or an explosive receiver who can stretch the field vertically alongside Terry.
“He’s a really dynamic playmaker,” offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham said.
And that, more than anything, is how Thompson wants to be known.
Although he said Tuesday that he doesn’t regret speaking up last month, it’s clear that he has tried to put it all behind him. He doesn’t want his words overshadowing his long-awaited on-field actions.
“I’m just ready to play ball,” Thompson said.
Georgia Tech at Florida State
3:30 p.m. Saturday, Doak Campbell Stadium