Stephen F. Austin edge BJ Thompson reflects on path from England, Arkansas to NFL Draft

Stephen F. Austin edge BJ Thompson reflects on path from England, Arkansas to NFL Draft

Stephen F. Austin edge BJ Thompson reflects on path from England, Arkansas to NFL Draft

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — You’ll see many names from big schools go off the board in this weekend’s NFL draft. One with a story unlike most is BJ Thompson, edge rusher from Stephen F. Austin and native of England, Arkansas.

“I take pride coming from a small school, I’ve been doing it my whole life,” Thompson said on the eve before the draft kicks off in Kansas City. “Coming from England, Arkansas, a small little 2A country school in the middle of Arkansas, making it initially to a Power Five college, and now coming out of Stephen F. Austin to the NFL.”

“That’s kind of my message,” the expected draft selection continued. “To show people no matter where you come from, you can make it out of your situation as long as you work hard.”

A 3-star 2017 prospect playing both ways for England High while winning a basketball state title, Thompson signed with Baylor. After two years showing flashes with the Bears, Thompson left the team to ultimately transfer to Stephen F. Austin.

The disruptive pass rusher took Nacogdoches and the FCS by storm, awarded 2020 Southland Conference newcomer of the year and twice being named first-team all-Western Athletic Conference. Over three seasons as a Lumberjack, Thompson totaled 20.5 sacks and 27.5 tackles for loss, repping his home state in the process.

“Everywhere I go I want people to know I’m from England, Arkansas” Thompson said. “I take a lot of pride being from Arkansas and being able to call England my hometown.”

A projected Day 3 pick and mocked in the fourth round, Thompson turned heads of NFL scouts at the East-West Shrine Game in February by tallying two sacks and impressing during practices.

The gifted athlete projects as a defensive end or outside linebacker as a pro, boasting impressive measurables at 6’6″ and 238 pounds, running a reported 4.4-second time in the 40-yard-dash, and offering an eye-popping wingspan of 82 inches.

“I think my athletic ability is number one, that’s what jumps off on tape to a lot of these guys,” Thompson said. “My first step, my speed, my quickness, my ability to spin, run, and jump. And to do a lot of things at 6-6 that guys my size aren’t able to do.”

Thompson’s path to the draft is a success story after beating the odds being from a small town and his first college stop not working out. After a busy draft process, now the talented central Arkansas native awaits the call that can change his life.

“Not a lot of native Arkansans can say they’ve done this, especially where I come from,” Thompson said. “This is the stuff I used to dream about sitting back in England, Arkansas wondering if I can get to this point. I’ve just been living in the moment and taking it all in.”

See our full story to hear more from the soon-to-be draft pick on his roots in England, adversity before starring at SFA, and what his emotions are like leading up to his name being called.

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