GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Mark Thompson still has the emails saved in his inbox folder.
They’re from the fall of 2014, when Thompson was an unknown running back in Kansas. He had transferred to a new junior college after redshirting at his first school.
Once he saw some action in a few games, he started emailing what little film he had to college coaches across the country.
One staff actually responded.
“What a lot of people don’t know is that during my first season at Dodge City, I was trying to get myself noticed by sending out my tape and the staff at Colorado State got back in touch with me,” Thompson said.
The head coach of that staff, of course, was Jim McElwain. His right-hand man, Tim Skipper, made contact with Thompson.
“He told me I was his guy even before he and coach Mac went to Florida,” Thompson said. “They’ve been a fan of me from the beginning. I got the emails to prove it. I’ve been talking to them for a long time. Nobody knows that, but me and coach Skip bring it up all the time.”
Once McElwain and Skipper made the move to UF, they gave Thompson his third scholarship offer in April 2015. When he pledged to the Gators a month later, he was still an unrated and unranked prospect.
By the end of his 2015 season, though, he was ranked the No. 1 junior college running back by every recruiting service.
“What that says about Florida is they gave me a chance when not many other schools did at the time,” Thompson said. “It shows they have a good coaching staff with a good eye for talent. They made a good choice in selecting me as a guy they wanted to help their team out.”
However, Thompson’s recruitment didn’t stop with his commitment. Alabama, Arizona State, Georgia, Kansas State, Louisville and Missouri all continued pursuing him throughout the summer and fall.
Thompson scheduled a Dec. 12 visit to check out the Crimson Tide, but later decided against it and canceled the trip.
“My relationship with Florida and coach Skip just felt more comfortable,” Thompson said. “He made me feel really welcome, and it’s important to play for a coach that has your back. I feel that with the whole staff. They were loyal to me, so I was loyal to them.”
Thompson, who had an incredible journey to UF, enrolled at the school last month. McElwain is ready to feed him the football.
“Mark is an SEC back,” McElwain said. “He’s got good size, obviously. You guys will see. When he walks through the door, you’ll know.
“He was just up in the office with a couple of guys to see how we’re doing. He said he was 239 and didn’t look 210. You know what I’m getting at? I’m excited to see him going forward.”
Spring should be a rewarding time for Skipper, who will get to coach the running back he’s coveted for more than two years.
“Mark is a grown man, that’s the first thing I’ll say,” Skipper told Gator Vision. “He’s a big specimen. He’s been working really hard so far in our strength and conditioning program with coach (Mike) Kent, and I think you’ll see big things with him.”