Casey Thompson will fulfill a lifelong dream on Saturday, when he starts at quarterback in the Red River Rivalry for the first time. Only he'll do it in the colors he grew up hating.
The son and younger brother of former Oklahoma quarterbacks, Thompson grew up in Moore, Okla., an Oklahoma City suburb directly north of Norman. And yet this isn't the case of a homegrown talent going overlooked by State U now ready to inflict cold-blooded revenge on his childhood heroes. Quite the opposite, in fact. Oklahoma wanted Thompson, and yet he still signed with Oklahoma's blood rival.
Why? How did this happen? How did Thompson not only commit to Texas over Oklahoma, but turn the Sooner brass down when they asked him to flip?
As Parker Thune writes for OUInsider, Thompson was one of three quarterbacks OU pursued in the class of 2018. The Oklahoma QB room was log-jammed at that time, while Texas returned only sophomore Shane Buechele. Sam Ehlinger signed with Texas that winter but had yet to play a game at the college level.
When Cameron Rising, a pro-style quarterback out of Newbury Park, Calif., committed to Oklahoma in the spring of 2017, Thompson's decision was essentially made for him. Despite the familial bond with Oklahoma, the best business decision was for Casey to commit to Texas -- and so he did, on April 13, 2017.
Nine days later, Rising flipped his commitment from Oklahoma to Texas.
And so now the burnt-orange shoe was on the crimson foot. Then-OU head coach Bob Stoops and offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley directly asked Thompson to flip his pledge from Texas to Oklahoma. Thompson said he would, on one condition.
Charles Thompson, the former OU quarterback and Casey's father, takes it from here:
“Listen, here’s where I’ll give Lincoln respect. Casey had a meeting with Lincoln, and Bob at the time was the head coach. And he asked one question of Lincoln, and Lincoln was very honest with him. And that’s why I will always respect Lincoln Riley for this. He could have said to my son, ‘Casey, I guarantee I’ll be here for the remainder of your time.’ But he was honest. Casey asked him, ‘If I decommit from Texas and commit to Oklahoma, will you commit to being here the entire time I’m here as offensive coordinator?’ And Lincoln said, ‘Much as I’d love to tell you that I could do that, I can’t make you that promise.’ And that was really why that didn’t happen at that time.”
Little did anyone know, within weeks Stoops would step down and Riley was named his replacement. Oklahoma secured a commitment from 4-star Tanner Mordecai in between that conversation and Stoops' retirement, but that didn't stop Oklahoma from asking for Thompson's commitment a third time.
At this point, Charles took personal feelings completely out of the equation and told Casey to make the best business decision, period. In fact, the Thompsons' proximity to Oklahoma actually hurt them here: older brother Kendal signed with Oklahoma in 2012 but ultimately transferred to Utah.
With the end of journey, not the beginning, in mind, Casey kept his commitment to Texas and signed that winter.
From there, Casey's story is one of perseverance. Rising's commitment stuck, too, and so Thompson spent his true freshman season fourth on the Longhorns' depth chart. Ehlinger was entrenched as UT's starter. Backup Buechele left for SMU. Rising transferred to Utah. And Thompson, briefly, enrolled at Oklahoma.
And yet, the math hadn't changed. The clearest path to the playing field was still at Texas. Father talked son into remaining a Longhorn.
Thompson spent two seasons backing up Ehlinger, playing sparingly behind the workhorse signal caller. He was electric in his one extended stretch of game action, hitting 8-of-10 passes for 170 yards with four touchdowns in last season's Alamo Bowl, but Steve Sarkisian and his new staff proclaimed redshirt freshman Hudson Card their opening day starter.
Thompson directed two touchdowns in as many drives at the tail end of a blowout loss to Arkansas on Sept. 11, but that was enough for Sarkisian to name him the starter for the following week's game against Rice.
In three games as Texas's starter, the UT offense has scored or run out the clock on 23 of 29 Thompson-led possessions.
“It’s a dream come true for me to start in this game,” Casey said this week. “But I don’t really think that I’ll be nervous or anxious or uptight. I’m excited to play.”