Call it love at first sight for Shemar Thompson and the East Carolina Pirates.
ECU running backs coach Jason Nichols evaluated video of Thompson in early December last year during a stop at Walter M. Williams High School in Burlington, NC. Nichols was so impressed by what he saw of the 6-foot-1, 205-pound running back that the Pirates extended a scholarship offer mere days later on December 19.
Although it took Thompson almost five months to make a verbal commitment, ECU was always first in his heart, according to Williams coach Jim McGill Jr.
“He’s one of those kids who knew from the get go where he wanted to go,” McGill said after Thompson made his pledge on May 25. “It was a good fit for him from day one. They were the first to offer and have done a great job in the recruiting process with him. He really loves the coaching staff.”
McGill said Thompson also received some positive feedback about ECU from another Alamance County product, Pirate running back Darius Pinnix. Pinnix, who was ECU’s second-leading rusher as a true freshman in 2017, is from Elon and starred for Williams’ rival Western Alamance.
“The Pinnix kid told Shemar how great it is at East Carolina,” McGill said. “I think that meant a lot coming from someone he knew about from our county.”
Thompson also received scholarship offers from Coastal Carolina and Gardner-Webb.
But McGill believes more offers would have been forthcoming for the player he says “has been special since the first time he touched a football.”
“Our middle school plays their games on our field,” McGill said. “We were done with our practice one day and we walked over (to the game field) during a water break. He was a man among boys in middle school. He’s always been kind of bigger than everyone else. He was already built like a sophomore in college. He was big, strong and fast … he just has that God-given talent.”
Thompson was so good that he earned a spot on the Williams varsity as a freshman in 2015. He appeared in 12 games that season, rushing for 229 yards and two touchdowns.
A year later Thompson became a focal point of the Williams offense as a runner, receiver and kick returner. He piled up 1,137 yards and 15 touchdowns rushing on 190 carries, caught 14 passes for 141 yards and three scores, and had 258 yards in kickoff returns to earn all region honors from The Burlington Times-News along with future ECU teammate Pinnix.
Thompson repeated as an all-region performer last season after gaining 1,383 yards rushing and scoring 17 times on 175 carries. Those statistics included some eye-popping performance such as a six-touchdown effort in a rout against Graham in September and a 310-yard, five-touchdown game in October versus Asheboro.
In the outing against Graham, Thompson scored four times rushing on runs of 1, 44, 4 and 38 yards, while throwing a 21-yard touchdown pass and returning a kickoff 75 yards for another score. He finished that game with 216 yards rushing.
During a 21-7 homecoming victory against Southwestern Randolph, Thompson picked up 182 yards rushing in a game highlighted by his 42-yard scoring run.
“Our blocking up front was kind of suspect on that play,” McGill said. “But Shemar made one guy miss, then ran over about three more on the touchdown run. He had to make a lot of things happen on his own last year because due to injuries we averaged only about 185 pounds up front. Shemar is about 15 pounds heavier than the guys who were blocking for him.”
But Thompson isn’t just a power back. According to McGill, he was timed at 4.47 seconds in a recent tryout combine for the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas all-star game. “He is the total package,” McGill said.
Thompson joins an ECU recruiting Class of 2019 that already included running back Taron Beauford out of Southern Durham High in Durham, NC. But with several backfield players transferring after the 2017 season and senior Anthony Scott scheduled to complete his eligibility in 2018, signing multiple running backs was a priority for the Pirates in the Class of 2019.
McGill said Thompson is solid with his commitment to ECU.
“He’s had a lot of people recruiting him heavily, and he’s still going to be,” he said. “But when we talk commitment, it’s a serious thing that we don’t take lightly. He said this is where he wanted to go, so I have no doubt he’ll end up in Greenville.”