Trovante Thompson enrolled at Morehouse College three years ago on an academic scholarship.
It didn’t take long, however, for his football prowess to be recognized.
“He blossomed into a reserve role,” Morehouse coach Rich Freeman said of Thompson as his team prepares to open camp Friday. “We expect him to come in (this year) and be ready to go. He’s fighting for a starting job.”
While Thompson, a former Whitehaven High standout, has thrived on and off the field through two full seasons in the collegiate ranks, the 20-year-old Texarkana, Texas native admittedly finds himself often reflecting on the potentially fatal incident that occurred in his dormitory last year around this time.
Shortly after the Maroon Tigers’ third intrasquad scrimmage, Thompson’s sight suddenly became obscured. Consequently, he began losing memory before ultimately blacking out on the floor. Fortunately for Thompson, his former college roommate, Quadarius Bennett, also a former Whitehaven player, was in Atlanta to visit him that weekend.
“I told him he pretty much saved my life,” Thompson told MemphiSport in a recent telephone interview from Atlanta. “My mom would have been getting an entirely different phone call.”
After alerting paramedics, Thompson immediately was transported to the hospital, where doctors said he had suffered from dehydration and hypoglycemia, a medical emergency that involves an abnormally diminished content of glucose in the blood.
Such news came as a shock to Thompson’s mother, Verlee Thompson who, while fielding a call from Freeman, was told initially that her son was unresponsive upon his arrival to the hospital.
“I was in the nail shop and they were trying to calm me down,” Verlee Thompson recalls. “I screamed, ‘Dear Lord, you can’t take my baby!’ I could hear the paramedics (in the background) say, ‘We’ve got to take him on in.’ I couldn’t even remember how to drive home. I was hysterical. It’s a phone call no mother wants to get about her child.”
Within approximately an hour, Verlee Thompson and Trovante Thompson’s father, Troy Thompson, had boarded a flight bound for Atlanta.
“Coach Freeman kept calling me, but I wanted to hear my son’s voice,” Verlee Thompson said. “So I asked him, ‘Are you trying to protect my feelings to wait until I arrive to Atlanta to tell me my baby is dead?’ He assured me that, ‘No, that wasn’t the issue.’ Just before I boarded the plane in Memphis, coach (Morehouse offensive line coach Brain) Braswell sent me a picture of Trovante sitting up in bed wearing a neck brace.”
Still, Verlee Thompson wasn’t fully convinced whether her son had survived a similar incident that had claimed the life of Millington High football player Dana Payne just four days earlier.
“At that point, I was like, ‘Let me hear his voice,’ she said. “They put the phone to his ear. His voice was weak, but that was my baby.”
Luckily for the Thompsons, their son’s status improved considerably by the time they arrived to Atlanta. Trovante Thompson, in fact, was discharged after spending a couple of hours in the emergency room.
According to Freeman, he sensed that Trovante Thompson’s condition stemmed largely from the 6-foot-3, 280-pounder having taken part in countless repetitions for an offensive unit that had experienced continuous depth issues, most notably after junior college standout Gerard Longtin of Duarte, Calif. had committed suicide in July 2011.
“It happens all the times when kids dehydrate,” Freeman said. “He dehydrated and lost his bearings. At the time, he was getting ready to shower and then get something to eat, and the players told us he wondered off to his room in a disoriented kind of fashion. I’ve seen it happened three times since I’ve been the coach here. We’re a small college, so he’s getting a lot of reps. It wasn’t really hot that day. I think it’s a diet issue about getting as much nutrients in his body.”
Having started three games last year for a Morehouse team that was a preseason favorite to win the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, but limped to a 3-7 finish, Trovante Thompson surprisingly wasn’t held out of practice. However, he spent the next scheduled two off days recouping comfortably, which enabled him to regain his endurance. The Maroon Tigers were entering their final full week of preseason workouts before heading to Washington, D.C. to open the 2012 campaign against Howard University, a game Trovante Thompson didn’t want to miss.
So eager was he to play in the season opener that Trovante Thompson, even while being confined to a hospital bed, asked Freeman if he would see action the following the weekend against the Bison.
“After I put in all the hard work and (doctors) told me what it was, dehydration and low blood sugar, I felt that I could play,” Trovante Thompson said. “At first, he suggested I sit out a week. I was like, ‘Sit out for what?’ I was eating. I was hydrated. I was feeling better. Everywhere I went, people were making sure I was hydrated.”
After visiting with doctors four days following the incident, Trovante was cleared to play against Howard, joining his teammates the next day on their flight to the nation’s capital. On a separate plane, his mother was en route to Washington.
Only this time, it wasn’t a rushed flight like the one that took place six days earlier.
Prior to kickoff, she and her son met once again to bask in a moment they had anticipated since Trovante Thompson first arrived on
Morehouse’s historic campus, a tear-jerking occurrence in which her son essentially cheated death just one week prior.
“I went down to the sideline and walked over to him and hugged him.” Verlee Thompson said. “I told him I love him and I asked if
he sure he can play. Being a competitor, I was very pleased he didn’t let that deter him from giving up something he loves.”
Looking back, Trovante Thompson described himself as “very fortunate,” given his best friend was in town long enough to help him elude harm’s way.
“I told Quadarius had the same situation happened and he wasn’t in town, I probably never would have made it because it probably would have been two or three days before anyone would have came to my room,” he said. “I told him he pretty much saved my life. My mom would have been getting an entirely different phone call. Me and friend, Quadarius, we still talk about it to this day.”
Among the reasons is that now, more than ever before, Trovante Thompson realizes just how precious, but fragile, life is.