Syd'Quan Thompson - Momma's Man
Courtesy: Cal Athletics  
Release:  09/10/2009

Sept. 10, 2009

BERKELEY - This story was featured in the Cal Kickoff Game Program, Sept. 5, 2009.

Syd'Quan Thompson is not known to be a man of many words. Cal's active career leader in nearly every defensive category usually lets his play do the talking for him.

"How did you get him to have a conversation with you?" asked his mother Patty with a chuckle before going on to explain. "He was quiet as a baby and when he got older, I would say to him `you don't talk much.' I thought maybe there was something wrong with him, but there was nothing wrong. He was just thinking."

Syd recently spoke at length about several subjects, most prominent the fact that the 22-year-old credits his even being at Cal to the support his single parent mother gave him as she raised four boys on her own in Sacramento.

"I felt that I would have to instill discipline in all of my kids or I would lose them to the system," said Patty, who hails from a military family that influenced the way she brought up her own children.

"I showed them how to do things like wash and separate their clothes by the time they were five years old," she said. "Their room had to be spic and span. I didn't want them to go out into the world and not clean up after themselves or take care of things around them. You need to respect yourself before somebody else respects you."

The boys' typical Saturday schedule displayed the tight ship she ran around the house.

"I would give each of them a bucket," she remembered. "They would have to clean everywhere in the house they touched. They had a hard time with me. I was on them 24-7."

When Syd was younger, he didn't always understand his mom's tactics, but when he reflects back on those days he understands now.

"My mom and I have a good relationship," he said. "She was pretty demanding, but she just wanted the best for us."

It wasn't until the last few years that Syd has begun to realize that.

"I was pretty demanding as a kid," he admitted. "But as I got older, I really began to understand and appreciate the things she went through just to keep lights on in the house or to put dinner on all four of our plates at night."

Despite all of the things his mother endured to give him a chance at success, it wasn't until a revelation about halfway through his career at Cal that he really began to mature into the man he is today.

During his time at Cal, he has had to face many obstacles. The first came in the classroom, where Syd's inattention to his studies early in his Berkeley career landed him on academic probation.

"I thought I was all about football, but I had to wake up and realize that if I didn't get it done in the classroom, then I wouldn't be able to be out there with my teammates to be able to compete for and win a Pac-10 championship."

The notion was easy to understand after he had earned All-American status as a senior at Grant High School in Sacramento, but the Cal coaches and football support staff made it clear to him that he was about much more.

"You have a lot of people around here at Cal that support your decisions if you're making the right decisions," remembered Syd. "I sat down and talked to Coach Tedford and some of our academic people. They let me know that no matter how good I was in football, that if I wasn't taking care of myself academically, it could all be taken away. They let me know how to really use my resources and switched the whole way I go about my daily agenda."

"I came to Cal immature and kind of just unsure about a lot of things in life," continued Syd. "You really don't know how much Cal does for you and how much of a growth process it is until you go through it. In my heart, it means a lot to be here at Cal. To be one of those few selected to get this opportunity is a blessing."

His mother also is grateful for the efforts of the Cal football coaches and support staff.

"I really feel good about him being there," said Patty. "Some of the things I used to do I don't have to do anymore, because I see they're doing it. If he has someone supporting him and telling him he that he's doing a good job then he will continue to do what he needs to do. I think his experience at Cal has molded him into the man he is today."

Thompson agreed.

"The biggest thing is that I've matured a lot," he summarized, looking back on his first four years at Cal. "They say that your first appearance is everything and the first appearance I delivered at Cal was as somebody that could be somewhat irresponsible. I just needed to be more mature and realize that it wasn't just about me. It's about getting up, going to class and doing everything in a professional manner for my teammates."

He's certainly done that of late as his GPA improved to a 2.88 during the 2008-09 academic year and he is back on schedule to graduate from the University with a bachelor's degree in Social Welfare by the time his athletic ability is exhausted. "I'm really proud of him for stepping up and finishing his classes," said Patty. "It gives kids the incentive that there's a world you can have instead of just sitting around the house. It's like saying `I've done it now I think you can do it, too.'"

He's also stepped it up to even another level on the football field.

"I have a lot of people that are depending upon me," he said. "I have to be a leader and not show any signs of weakness or false movement because younger guys look up to me and I have to set a good example."

The example he really wants to set is in his hometown. <{P>"I love Sacramento," he stated. "I want to show the kids back there that I could have been easily influenced in the wrong direction, but I've got a mom that's strong enough, home trained me right and got me headed in the right direction."

It's a direction that has already led him to three fantastic seasons at Cal and the hope of another one to come.


"When I wake up, the game is first thing I think about. I think about what it is that I have to do, and I envision myself making plays. I go over the calls and what we game-planned for to kind of get a vision in my head."

After that, the next thing Syd does is listen to his favorite tune on his iPod over and over.

"I'll find a song that goes with the mood I'm in for that day and just play it over and over again," he offered. "It just kind of clears my head, relaxes me and helps me to get ready for the game. I've got a few favorites, but it's usually something mid-tempo that I can get into a rhythm to while I'm playing. I'm just rocking that song everywhere from the time I put in my iPod until the time I put my helmet on. It helps me not over think too much and keeps me calm throughout the game."