Immediately after one of the most exhilarating moments of his young life, a game-winning sprawling save in Rockhurst’s 2020 Class 4A section victory over Lee’s Summit West, Ryan Thompson might have smoothed over or taken advantage of the moment.
He may have just absorbed the herd of Hawklets teammates that swarmed his way. And might even have felt compelled to sing in the direction of Connor Brummett, whose last shot he had foiled.
Instead, no sooner was Thompson back on his feet than he rushed to the side of his dying challenger, not his adversary, a friend over the years who was now in a heap, in tears.
“The whole team was running at Ryan,” said Rockhurst football coach and dean of students Matt Darby. “Then they had to figure out, ‘Oh wait, we have to give it a moment. “”
Because even amidst the euphoria, Thompson couldn’t ignore what he called “the sheer angst” in front of him.
“I don’t know exactly how it would feel, but I know it would stink if I was in that situation,” he said. “And at the end of the day, we’re just high school athletes trying to play soccer. One won and one lost, and after the whistle we are no different.
“I just wanted to go help him and tell him that everything was fine and that everything would pass.”
When Thompson hugged Brummett and lifted him, he lifted many others. As it has done in many other ways, we will come back to this.
“Never in a million years,” Brummett said Thursday, could he have imagined what Thompson did for him.
If the situation had been reversed, Brummett said, he probably would have instantly celebrated with his team “like I think anyone else would have.” But Brummett, who now plays football at Rockhurst University, is forever grateful for how Thompson soothed him when his “heart was breaking” and he felt so alone.
In the stands at Rockhurst that day was Ryan’s father Scott, who was thrilled with the decisive PK but even more moved by what happened next. His wife, Pam, was unable to attend as she was struggling with oral surgery, but said: ‘I think I had tears in my eyes’, as he explained to her in real time over the phone .
Also watching was Rockhurst President David J. Laughlin, who retweeted the winning save video and wrote: “Amazing game and I’m SO impressed with Ryan’s sportsmanship for its competitor LSW. Great reflection on a great match, great young man, great coaching! AMDG »
(AMDG is an acronym from the Latin Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam: For the Glory of God.)
The story of Ryan Thompson, 2022 Star’s Boys Scholar-Athlete of the Year, is more than the gesture that also helped him win recognition among NAIA Character Champions last year.
But this scene certainly offers a vivid glimpse of a refreshing and reassuring presence that frames his tremendous accomplishments in a more meaningful way.
It reflects a “personality,” said Scott Thompson, that will always be with him.
“It really shows us who he is,” Brummett said, later adding, “His acting has spoken so many words.”
Dazzling enough to be the epitome of the student-athlete, representing both academic prowess (a 4.6 GPA and 34 ACT) and athletic brilliance (a first-team player Two-time All-State who was vital for a state title and was invited to Prep Soccer’s High School All-America game).
He’ll be heading to the University of Tulsa this summer for a top-10 program and recently earned the Presidential Scholarship, Scott Thompson said, meaning “he’s kind of a coach’s best friend.” with a full course through the academics.
Not that these achievements are in vain in themselves. But they are part of something more substantial because of how he sees and embraces his place in the world.
It’s not just that he was president of the Regis Club, which focuses on community service, and a peer leader in Rockhurst’s Sources of Strength program and led a mental health initiative, and treated everyone with a sincere dedication.
It is also the admirable and honorable traits that he exudes day after day.
Darby says he consistently puts others first, reflecting his humility and selflessness, and because of this he became the student he saw as “kind of the unofficial voice of our senior class.” and who he would turn to if he needed to win student support. Thompson also often reflects on qualities such as empathy and the fact that it’s not all about you…topics that he and his friends tend to talk about.
If you ask where it all came from, Thompson will tell you that it came from loving parents who were taught to try to be more about others than themselves and his three older siblings and his Catholic faith and the influence of Rockhurst.
It also comes from the expressions that he held dear to his paternal grandparents: “It’s never the wrong time to do the right thing,” Grandmother Jeanne liked to say. Grandpa Byron made a strong impression with his idea that it takes a lifetime to build a reputation and an instant to ruin it, Ryan said, “so make sure you’re always aware of what you’re doing.
He was also deeply influenced by reading “To Kill A Mockingbird” in eighth grade, particularly struck by its lesson in trying to figure out where other people come from: “If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along much better with all kinds of people.” Atticus Finch narrates his daughter in the most direct reflection of this. “You never really understand a person until you see things from their perspective, until you climb inside their skin and walk around in it.”
Still, it’s hard to overstate the impact of another force in his life: younger sister Lauren, who has Down syndrome. He was 4 when she was born, so with the older siblings at school, they developed a unique bond.
“He always had this special patience and love for her,” Pam Thompson said.
Although all of the siblings are close, the parents said, Ryan had a distinct sense of being everything from her protector to her translator when she could sense people didn’t understand what she was saying. She’s a big reason why he’s so easily prone to stepping back and trying to figure out how other people are feeling.
“I wouldn’t be the same,” he said, “without that impact.”
In turn allowing him to make an indelible impact.
On several occasions over the past three years, Darby said, he’s been impressed with Ryan’s patience and perspective.
“It doesn’t happen very often,” said Darby, a former athlete-scholar representative from Rockhurst himself, who said he held back tears when he learned that Thompson had received the honor from the Star.
Thompson was rare not only because he was a goalkeeper who frequently made saves that left Darby wondering “how did he get to that ball?” and a college student who intended to become a neurosurgeon (but keeps an open mind as he sets sail for Tulsa).
Most of all, Darby is moved by the grace with which Ryan pulled it all off…including sometimes going against the grain, as evidenced by this section play.
“I’ve always told people, ‘He’s like your All-American kid that doesn’t seem real,'” Darby said. “And then you get to know him, and he’s actually like the most real person ever.”