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Colin Thompson, from Archbishop Wood and Temple, finds his way to the NFL and the end zone

The former Temple tight end's first NFL catch was Sunday's 7-yard touchdown for the Carolina Panthers in their loss to Tampa Bay.

Carolina tight end Colin Thompson played for Panthers coach Matt Rhule at Temple.
Carolina tight end Colin Thompson played for Panthers coach Matt Rhule at Temple.Read moreAlex Gallardo / AP

Tuesday is an off day for most NFL players, and it’s a good thing in Colin Thompson’s case because the former Archbishop Wood and Temple tight end has a lot of text messages to return.

Thompson is in his first NFL season with the Carolina Panthers and on Sunday he made the most of his first-ever reception, a 7-yard touchdown pass from Teddy Bridgewater to open the scoring in a 46-23 loss to the visiting Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Thompson, who will be 27 in December, clearly wanted to win the game, but he couldn’t hide the emotions he had about his first NFL catch.

“It was bittersweet,” he said in a Tuesday morning phone interview with The Inquirer. “We would have loved to have won, but the touchdown was a really big deal for myself, my family, my friends, my fiance Sydney, all the coaches who believed in me along the way. A 7-yard catch in front of the end zone means a little more than the normal 7-yard catch.”

Yes, it means much more.

“It was a special day, a tough loss is not what we wanted, but to talk to family driving home after the game in his crazy COVID year, to bring some joy to people who are maybe going through some tough times," he said. "The number of texts I received, about 300, all the social media interactions, it was really unique and a fun time for my family and myself.”

He said he would use his off-day Tuesday to return the texts.

“I have about 150 to go, so I hope to get back to the people today,” said Thompson, who has seen extensive time on special teams this season.

In Cape May, there is a weekly ritual in which Thompson’s parents, Dave and Karen, host a few friends and watch the Panthers game.

“We were so excited,” Karen Thompson said by phone. “We were saying it felt like slow motion. It was exciting and there were about six of us, and we were jumping up and down."

Panthers third-year wide receiver DJ Moore, a graduate of Imhotep Charter, also caught a touchdown pass in Sunday’s game.

What made the moment more special for Colin Thompson was all the adversity he had to go through just to be able to walk on an NFL field, let alone score on one.

Coming out of Archbishop Wood, he was among the best high school tight ends in the country and he attended the University of Florida. After two foot surgeries, he left Florida, and there wasn’t a big market for him. He said his only two offers were from Montana and Temple. Montana is the alma mater of Marty Mornhinweg, the current Eagles senior offensive consultant and longtime NFL coach. Thompson went to Florida with Marty’s son, Skyler Mornhinweg, a former star at St. Joseph’s Prep.

Thompson chose to play for Matt Rhule at Temple, and as a senior, he was part of the Owls’ American Athletic Conference-championship team.

He signed as a free agent with the New York Giants but had an emergency appendectomy and was later cut. In November 2017, he was signed to the Chicago Bears practice squad and stayed with the organization until being waived in September 2018.

Thompson stayed involved in the game by being a sideline analyst for Temple football radio broadcasts.

He also played in two leagues that quickly folded, the Alliance of American Football (AAF) in 2019 and the XFL. He played with the Birmingham Iron of the AAF for eight games before the league folded. Then he spent time this year with the Tampa Bay Vipers of the XFL. In March, the XFL canceled its season because of the pandemic.

He then signed in April with the Panthers and their first-year head coach Rhule, his old Temple coach.

“I was asked many times if I was done playing, and I kept saying ‘no,’ ” Thompson said. “This was a dream of mine to play in the NFL.”

Remarkably, he is still coaching while he is with the Panthers. He is an assistant coach at Lower Cape May, working for head coach Lance Bailey.

“We do Zoom meetings and I am still coaching. I have input on the practice script for the offense, and I watch film,” Thompson said.

Bailey says that Thompson has been a big hit with the players.

“We have a weekly regimen and he sends out stuff to the kids at least three or four days a week, and Colin and I speak every night about practice,” Bailey said. “His dedication to our program has been unbelievable.”

And his dedication to playing has been even more impressive. Thompson hopes that this isn’t the end of his NFL highlight film.

“I hope this is the beginning,” he said. “It’s been great and extremely humbling, all the text and calls. It’s been fantastic, but hopefully I am just getting started.”