By BRIAN CUNNIFF
Back in the summer, Colin Thompson probably figured he would have been on the sidelines for the Lower Cape May Regional High School football team’s 30-26 victory over Holy Cross late Saturday afternoon.
Instead, Thompson was busy preparing for an NFL game in which he recorded his first career touchdown.
Thompson, who was set to be Lower Cape May’s offensive coordinator this fall until he beat long odds to make the Carolina Panthers’ roster as a backup tight end, caught a seven-yard touchdown pass from Teddy Bridgewater in the first quarter of Sunday’s 46-23 loss to Tampa Bay.
Thompson caught the touchdown pass in the front right corner of the end zone to open the game’s scoring. It was also the first reception of his NFL career.
Thompson played in the spring with the Tampa Bay Vipers of the XFL, which shut down after five weeks, mostly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He then signed with the Panthers in late April but was considered a longshot to make the team, so he also accepted the assistant coaching position at Lower Cape May under head coach Lance Bailey.
But the 26-year-old earned a roster spot in Carolina behind a strong training camp and had seen action in eight games prior to Sunday’s contest against Tampa.
Thompson, who has still been regularly consulting with the Lower Cape May coaching staff throughout the season, played college football at Temple for three seasons under Matt Rhule, now in his first season as the Panthers’ head coach.
Thompson, who played parts of two seasons at Florida before transferring to Temple, was an American Athletic Conference honorable mention selection as a senior for the Owls in 2016.
Thompson signed with the New York Giants as an undrafted free agent in 2017 but was waived during preseason camp. He was signed to the practice squad of the Chicago Bears later that year and spent the 2018 preseason with the team before being released.
Thompson was initially cut by the Panthers one week before the start of the regular season in early September but was re-signed two days later.
Thompson is a graduate of Archbishop Wood High School in Bucks County, Pa., and was considered one of the top high school tight ends in the country as a senior.
Thompson has long been familiar with the Jersey Shore area, as his family regularly spends much of the summer in Cape May.
Thompson was a resident of Cape May prior to signing with Carolina.