Kansas State University

Why Skylar Thompson and Chris Klieman trusted each other immediately at Kansas State

Skylar Thompson explains why K-State football has high expectations

Skylar Thompson explains why K-State football has high expectations
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Skylar Thompson explains why K-State football has high expectations

At this time last year, Skylar Thompson modeled his style of play after a handful of prominent former Kansas State quarterbacks and some of the most famous active passers in the NFL.

He wanted to be the next Michael Bishop or Andrew Luck.

But they are no longer his role models, at least not the primary two. Ask Thompson today who he most admires in the quarterback world and his answer is completely different. If he could follow in the footsteps of any other football players he would choose a pair of former North Dakota State quarterbacks who made it to the NFL after helping Chris Klieman win FCS championships in Fargo.

Thompson now wants to be the next Carson Wentz or Easton Stick.

“I feel like my skill set compares really well to how they play,” Thompson, K-State’s junior quarterback said at Big 12 media days. “They can both pass the ball, but they are also athletic guys that can run. In this offense we are going to do both. We are going to be the center of the offense with a good run game, play-action game and a lot of different aspects that make it appealing for a quarterback.”

“If you look at the resume of Coach Klieman and him putting Carson Wentz and Easton Stick in the NFL, it’s going to be a great opportunity for me. That has been my dream my entire life to play at the next level. Coach Klieman and his offense are going to prepare me for that opportunity.”

Some coaching changes can be tough on a quarterback, but that is far from the case here.

Few, if any, K-State football players have embraced Klieman as their new coach more than Thompson. The Fort Osage product was first in line to endorse Klieman when the Wildcats hired him, and he has studied North Dakota State’s offense more thoroughly than an opposing coach over the past eight months.

The new system isn’t a complete departure from what he was accustomed to under former coach Bill Snyder, but there are some big differences. He will be under center more often, the offense will feature extra pre-snap adjustments and his throws will feature lots of misdirection.

But he likes the changes. Thompson wants to lead this offense. And Klieman has faith in him.

They were able to trust each other quickly because of a relationship they formed when Thompson was a high school recruit. Klieman offered Thompson a scholarship and tried to sign him at North Dakota State. Thompson was a four-star prospect with offers from power-conference teams, so that didn’t work out. But they respected each other.

That respect grew with each passing summer when star North Dakota State receiver Darrius Shepherd, who hails from Blue Springs, worked out with Thompson whenever they were both back home. Shepherd ran routes. Thompson threw the ball. In between, they talked about K-State and North Dakota State.

It was easy for Thompson to connect with Stick last spring.

Klieman says they already act the same when it comes to leadership. They are both the focal point of every meeting, willing to lead both vocally and by example.

“He reminds me a lot of Easton,” Klieman said.

Stick completed 175 of 281 passes for 2,752 yards and 28 touchdowns last season. He also rushed for 677 yards and 17 touchdowns. It will be hard for Thompson to duplicate that type of production with the Wildcats next season.

Wentz was the No. 2 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft and helped the Eagles win the Super Bowl in 2018. It will be hard for Thompson to match that type of pro career.

But Thompson does have a bit of an edge on both in one area. He was a coveted recruit coming out of high school, whereas Stick was a two-star prospect and Wentz didn’t even have a star rating. If he learns Klieman’s system quickly, perhaps he already has the talent needed to thrive in it.

“If we had to have him carry the ball between 15-25 times in a game, we could do that because he has the ability,” Klieman said. “He is a good runner and he has put some weight on. We don’t want to do that, but if we had to we could. His ability to escape outside the pocket and keep his eyes down field is something I have been really impressed with. And I have seen the amount of work he put in this summer. I am so excited to see his evolution.”

Thompson is also eager to prove himself in a new offense. He completed 122 of 208 passes for 1,391 yards and nine touchdowns last season while mostly sharing quarterback duties with Alex Delton.

Now that Thompson is the unquestioned QB1, he is aiming for much more, playing with confidence “just having fun and playing free” without fear of getting benched for a mistake.

Thompson wants to win big this season. And, eventually, he wants a NFL jersey that bears his name to hang in Klieman’s office, right alongside jerseys that promote Wentz and Stick.

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