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Deonte Thompson Stuck It Out At Wideout

Posted Sep 2, 2012

Deonte Thompson was asked by several teams to convert to defensive back.

When Deonte Thompson was at his spring pro day, an NFL scout asked him to do defensive back drills.

A joke around the NFL is that a cornerback is a wide receiver who can't catch. That is essentially what the evaluator was saying to Thompson.

Thompson had eight teams interested in him. Only two – the Baltimore Ravens and Philadelphia Eagles – were interested in him as a wide receiver.

Thompson was fine with playing cornerback if that's what a team drafted him as. But when he went undrafted and thus could sign with any team, Thompson wanted one that valued him as a wideout. He chose Baltimore.

If it hadn't been for the Ravens' faith, the undrafted rookie free agent's story may have been very different. Thompson proved that he can play his natural position so convincingly that he made the Ravens' 53-man roster Friday night.

"It's a blessing, man," Thompson said. "A long time coming. I had to work for it; nothing was given to me. I had to bust my butt every day. Hard work pays off."

Thompson always had the tools.

The former Florida track standout claims he runs the 40-yard dash in a blazing 4.2 seconds.

One of the hottest debates in the Ravens locker room is who is fastest. The contenders are Torrey Smith, Lardarius Webb, Jacoby Jones and running back Damien Berry. Berry recently conceded to Thompson.

His speed was a known commodity, but there were definite questions about Thompson when he came out of college.

He was set back by injuries and coaching changes. In his biggest year, Thompson caught 38 passes for 570 yards and one touchdown. Besides that, he never topped 350 yards in a single season.

And then there were his hands.

"He had some questions about how well he caught the ball," Ravens Wide Receivers Coach Jim Hostler said. "Was he going to be able to transition that to this level?"

The Eagles told Thompson they were going to draft him with one of their final two picks. When that didn't happen, Thompson said he hit the lowest moment of his career.

"Not hearing my name called, that's pretty tough," he said. "I thought I had a good shot. I thought I was going to be drafted. I knew my talents. I was like, 'I guess nobody sees me.'"

The Ravens did. And since they wanted Thompson as a wide receiver, it was an easy decision.

"I liked what the Ravens stand for," Thompson said. "When you think of the Ravens, you think of tough ball, tough dudes. I thought I fit in well with that."

The Belle Glade, Fla., native gelled with the Ravens from the start. He was part of a deep and young wideout corps, but was frequently targeted by quarterback Joe Flacco in practices.

Perhaps most importantly, Thompson held onto the ball. The catching problems that dogged Thompson coming out of college didn't show themselves in the pros.

That was never more evident than with Thompson's final catch of the preseason Thursday night in St. Louis. He capped off the night with an 11-yard touchdown grab over the middle. He dove and caught the pass with his fingertips in between two defenders.

For those who thought Thompson couldn't play wide receiver in the NFL, the catch was clear evidence to the contrary.

"That was a great one, right? Tough one too, right?" Thompson said, as if looking for reassurance of its magnificence. "I didn't know how many people were around me until I watched it on film."

As is the case for many undrafted rookie free agents, Thompson didn't have an easy path to an NFL roster. And unlike others, he even had to prove he could play his natural position.

"Everything happens for a reason," Thompson said. "But I'm still where I wanted to be at, and that's to be on an NFL team. It doesn't matter how you get there just as long as you get there."

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