Shaq Thompson made it a bit more official today when he announced during the NBC broadcast of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl that he will head to Cal on scholarship.
Thompson was in his yellow West team jersey when he made the announcement, a plea and requirement of the Army Bowl as they want to draw more intrigue and ratings for the premiere prep All-Star even in the land. The West team won 24-12 with Thompson making five tackles on defense and nearly coming up with an interception.
The Bee's Player of the Year and a major national recruit as a Top 3 safety in the land, Thompson gave Cal a verbal commitment last spring after Junior Day in Berkeley, then de-committed - a common move for prep stars - to explore all options. The powerfully built 6-foot-2, 215-pound senior took recruiting trips to Washington, Arizona State and Notre Dame, but in recent days, Thompson said Cal became the clear choice.
Scholarship commitments do not become official until Feb. 1 - National Letter of Intent Day when pen goes to paper and is immediately faxed to college programs.
"It's like family for me," Thompson said of the Bears.
There are two reasons for that. Older brother and idol Syd Thompson, also a prep All-American at Grant, was a four-year starting cornerback for the Bears last decade and is now a second-year player for the Denver Broncos. Worrell Williams of Grant started three years at linebacker for Cal, a teammate of Syd Thompson, and Cal landed Bee 2010 co-Defensive Players of the Year last in defensive linemen aces Vei Moala and Puka Lopa.
Grant has been a rich pipeline for Cal coach Tedford, who needs a recruiting class boost to snap out of the program's mediocre run of late.
Thompson is a devastating runner and can also play quarterback, but he said he likes safety the most - "the chance to make plays and hit," he said.
"I think our class can really come in and make a difference for Cal," Thompson said of the Bears, who seem to be on their way to landing a national Top 5 recruiting class, including other Army All-Stars and Elk Grove standout lineman Steven Moore.
Grant coaches Mike Alberghini and Reggie Harris raved about Thompson's incredible athletic ability, his ability to turn games, to buckle foes. Most of all, the coaches were impressed by Thompson's leadership the field and especially on campus.
Alberghini, Harris and Thompson's mother Patty flanked Thompson for the announcement. As soon as he announced, Thompson and Harris hustled back to the sideline. Harris coached the West All-Star defensive linemen, a unit that includes Pleasant Grove All-American Arik Armstead.
The 6-foot-8 star who also excels in basketball said Friday that he will not announce his college choice until late this month. His top three remain Cal, Notre Dame and Oregon. He did concede to The Bee on Friday that the idea of playing at Cal with a friend like Thompson "would be cool."
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PHOTO CAPTION: Grant quarterback Shaq Thompson. Paul Kitagaki Jr. Sacramento Bee