COPPERAS COVE — Tyrell Thompson could feel the pressure mounting.
Coming off a standout junior season, Copperas Cove’s defensive end was tired of running scenarios over in his mind. The options were overwhelming, and he did not want to carry the weight any longer.
So Thompson cleared his conscious.
The 6-foot-4, 265-pounder verbally committed to play for the University of Houston recently and, in the days since, has experienced nothing but peace of mind.
“I feel very relieved,” Thompson said. “It is a stress taken off me, and I can just focus on other things now.”
Verbal commitments are nonbinding until National Signing Day in February, but the pledge makes Thompson the Bulldawgs’ second player to commit to a Division I program in a month. In early May, quarterback Manny Harris made a verbal commitment to the University of Texas-San Antonio after a stellar junior season.
Although other options were presented, Thompson knew Houston was the place for him.
“The school just fit me,” he said. “I just felt like, out of all the schools I went to, none of them compared to Houston.”
Now, with his mind made up, Thompson, who intends to study kinesiology in college, is fixated on dominating defensively for the Bulldawgs.
A starter in each of the last two seasons, Thompson is coming off the best year of his high school career. As a junior, he recorded 50 tackles, including eight for a loss, and two sacks, while pressuring the quarterback nine times.
He expects to top those statistics this season.
“My number one goal is to play every game the way I know I can,” Thompson said. “I’m not taking any plays off this season. I really want to make it on the all-district first-team list.
“I’ve been on varsity since I was a sophomore, and I haven’t ever made it, so that’s my goal this year.”
Although he is currently entrenched in his position at Copperas Cove, meetings with members of the Cougars’ coaching staff opened his eyes to different ways he might be used. He was told they liked his quick hands, ability to change direction and overall speed for his size.
“The defensive line coach Ricky Logo said I could play as a three-point-stance type end or I could be a two-point, stand-up rush end,” Thompson said. “And if I get any bigger, I could go play at nose guard.”
Before suiting up for the Cougars, however, Thompson has unfinished business as a Bulldawg.
Despite helping Copperas Cove extend its streak of consecutive playoff appearances to double-digits in 2013, Thompson has never experienced a postseason victory. As a sophomore, Cedar Hill beat the Bulldawgs 35-28 in the opening round, and No. 2 DeSoto earned a 67-21 victory en route to reaching the Class 5A state semifinals last year.
With all distractions removed, though, Thompson is solely focused on helping his team and playing for his community.
“Whenever we go somewhere and there is a big group of us, people always ask us if we are going to go to state this year,” he said. “They want us to win all these games and stuff. It’s pressure, and it’s motivation, but it is also something we want to accomplish for ourselves and for this town.”