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Mike Leach: Cardinals supplemental pick Thompson is explosive, 1st-class

Wide receiver Jay MacIntyre #14 of the Colorado Buffaloes is tackled by safety Jalen Thompson #34 of the Washington State Cougars after making a catch during the third quarter at Folsom Field on November 19, 2016 in Boulder, Colorado. Colorado defeated Washington State 38-24. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

Washington State head coach Mike Leach wishes safety Jalen Thompson would be suiting up for the Cougars in 2019. Leach also believes Thompson would have benefited from another season in Pullman, Wash.

“The thing is, unfortunately, he’s not,” Leach told Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

Just two weeks ago, Thompson lost his final year of college eligibility due to an NCAA violation, forcing the defensive back to enter his name in the 2019 NFL supplemental draft. On Wednesday, the Arizona Cardinals made Thompson, one of five supplemental draft entrants, the only selection in the event, taking him in the fifth round and by rule losing their 2020 fifth-round NFL Draft pick.

Thompson’s NCAA violation stemmed from a failed banned substance test, but Leach believes in the safety as a player and a man.

“He’s really explosive, jumps high, gets to balls you don’t think he can get to, and he hits a ton, ’cause he’s not a really big guy but I mean he just unloads it,” Leach told Doug & Wolf on Thursday.

Thompson played all 13 games in each of his three years at WSU, starting from his first game. As a junior in 2018, he recorded 66 tackles with 3.0 for loss, adding two picks and eight passes defensed.

Leach confirmed a report from The Spokesman-Review that indicated Thompson’s NCAA violation occurred after the safety took an over-the-counter supplement from a nutrition store that was not a steroid.

“He had a guy that worked at … one of those supplement stores like a GNC, brings his stuff home — and his roommates lifted weighs and stuff — so Jalen takes it and it’s got a banned substance in it,” Leach said. “And it’s a fairly onerous penalty to pay.”

Leach emphasized that the Cougars attempt to keep their athletes from taking substances that aren’t given to them by in-house trainers unless they run things by the NCAA first. It’s not an easy task even for players conscious of what they take, and the penalties for ingesting a banned substance are steep.

Thompson’s departure hurts the Cougars. But Thompson, Leach added, did nothing but good things in his three years spent at Washington State.

“This guy’s outstanding. He’s first-class. He’s an honest, straightforward guy, an incredibly hard worker. No moral character issues,” Leach said. “When you consider where he came from, he’s from right across the street from the Compton airport. I get a kick out of this — you know everybody wants to act like they came from a real tough neighborhood. You can’t throw a dead cat without hitting a guy who says he came from a tough neighborhood … somebody walked 10 miles to go to the restroom and 20 miles to go to school and all this other stuff. Jalen actually did live in a tough, tough, tough neighborhood.

“The day he got there he worked like crazy and played like he belonged as the starting player, as a starting safety.”

Doug & Wolf

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