Jesse Thompson wears skates and cleats.
The Arlington High School junior learned during his bantam level of ice hockey — ages 13-14 — that high-intensity, physical sports were for him.
“That was our first year of contact. I was bigger than everyone, so I liked that,” Thompson said Thursday after football practice. “It's starting to catch up with me though. I'm not the biggest kid anymore.”
But he still loves the contact.
Thompson averaged 5.2 yards per rush out of the backfield last season, finishing with 668 yards. That production helped the Arlington Eagles make a return to the Class C1 playoffs.
When asked, the junior graded the running game's performance from 2018 at a C-plus or B-minus. He expects more this fall, starting with Friday's 7 p.m. home opener against West Point-Beemer.
“Our line has been taking more reps after practice and us backs have been hitting the weight room pretty hard,” Thompson said.
The Arlington offensive line will be bolstered by Kobe Wilkins, Remington Gay and Cooper Hilgenkamp. Wilkins said he expects veteran coach Steven Gubbels to take advantage of he and his teammates' strength up front.
“(The three of us are) a great combo for him to work out a lot of plays,” he noted.
Thompson is also of that opinion.
“I know they're going to have a hole for me,” Thompson said. “I'm looking forward to that.”
Wilkins is about to become a three-year starter when the Eagles kick off against the Cadets.
“Yes,” he answered when asked if the prospect of running the ball downhill all season was exciting. “And it also is tiring because you've got to keep pushing.”
But the offensive line and he are up to the task with the amount of offensive weapons they'll have on the field around them. Wilkins named Thompson, but also quarterback Josh Miller, Tanner Pittman, Logan Kirk, Casey Kirk, Nick Smith, Isaac Foust and Frankie Rosenbalm as examples.
Overall, Thompson thinks the Arlington football team will get the job done in 2019. He pegged two of his blockers — Wilkins and Gay — as the potential standouts.
“They'll move people out of the way for me and grind out the tough plays on defense,” he said.
Thompson's skates are off for a bit, while he ties up his cleats.