Polk County senior Trey Thompson, center front, will play football this fall at Averett University. Joining Thompson to celebrate his decision Thursday were, front row from left, assistant coach Zach Searcy, Jamie Thompson, Thompson, Amber Thompson, Tori Thompson and Tali Thompson. Back row, from left: Principal Dr. Brandon Schweitzer, head coach Bruce Ollis and athletic director Rex Wells

As he returned from a visit to Averett University, Trey Thompson felt like he had found the ideal place to continue both his education and athletic career.

The flurry of text messasges he received from Averett’s football coaches upon sharing that decision confirmed for the Polk County senior that he had made the right choice.

Surrounded by coaches, family and friends, Thompson celebrated his plans to play football at Averett during a ceremony Thursday morning in Polk County’s auditorium.

The event capped an active college consideration process for Thompson, who had letters of acceptance from 12 campuses and visited five before making his decision to attend Averett, a Division III school located in Danville, Va. The Cougars finished 7-3 in 2019 and are part of the USA South Athletic Conference, which also includes Brevard College.

In the end, finding a place similar to Polk County enticed Thompson to leave the area.

“They reminded me the most of home,” said Thompson, the son of Polk County assistant head coach Jamie Thompson. “Their defensive coordinator reminded me of Coach (Zach) Searcy. They’re like the same person. They were just real nice to me. I felt wanted there, so I wanted to go there.

“It has a small-town atmosphere. I don’t like really big places, so that’s nice.”

The large crowd gathered for the ceremony reflected the popularity of Thompson among his teammates and lent a family feel to the gathering. So too did the words of Polk County head coach Bruce Ollis, who admitted the event had a bit more meaning than usual.

“This is the first time in my career that I’ve been around an athlete from cradle to college,” Ollis said. “We’ve got pictures of Trey from my first picture day in 2002 where they’re holding him like a sack of potatoes and he’s about two months old.

“He chartered a course for himself that enabled him to have some opportunities to look at a number of places. I was on the phone with Coach Thompson, and I can remember my dad telling me, ‘Son, I ain’t going to tell you what to do, but I believe I’d go somewhere where somebody wants you.’ And Averett really wanted Trey to come play football.”

Thompson blossomed into one of the top players in the Western Highlands Conference in his final two seasons. An All-WHC, All-Area and honorable mention All-Western North Carolina selection for the 2019 season, Thompson led Polk County with 29 tackles for loss. He recorded 78 total tackles with four sacks, two forced fumbles, two pass deflections and a blocked field goal. He led Polk County in tackles as a junior.

Thompson also has found success as a wrestler, reaching the state 1A tournament as a junior and winning a Western Highlands Conference championship this season. Ollis noted that the handfighting skills so important to wrestling will also serve Thompson well as a defensive end, the position at which Averett coaches have indicated they want him to play.

“He’s put a lot of time and effort into (wrestling),” Ollis said. “If you check with college coaches, one of the first things they do, particularly for guys that play inside, is look for guys who can handfight and have great balance and have a little bit of power. They want wrestlers in that area. He’s done that, and it’s something I think that got him the opportunity to play.”

Thompson hopes to follow in his father’s footsteps as a teacher and coach once his playing days are over. For now, he’s looking forward to the opportunity to continue his career.

“I looked at Mars Hill and Lenoir-Rhyne, and those were like my two two, but Averett was the way to go because they were nice and they wanted me to be there,” Thompson said. “It wasn’t like I was applying for a job and they were just going to give it to me.

“It’s the start of a new football career, moving up from high school. It’s going to be like starting over all over again.”

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