Shoe and tell: Marist’s Jadon Thompson prepping for final year

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Marist’s Jadon Thompson during a preseason practice. Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times.

Marist receiver Jadon Thompson naturally attracts a lot of attention.

He has an entourage of power-conference college coaches scrambling for his services, unsurprising given his four-star rating and top-five ranking among all Illinois prospects.

And he’s also a self-described “shoe head,” with 20 to 30 shoes from top designer brands populating his closet, and when he wears them out in a public place, people tend to notice.

“One time, I was at the mall and I was walking and I had on my Nike off-whites, and every time somebody saw me, they’d just look at my shoes,” Thompson said. “I got compliments when I’d go into stores, and then we’d have a conversation about shoes.”

The way Thompson’s voice picked up when he started describing his shoe collection — his favorites are his Pharrell Williams Human Race sneakers and his aforementioned off-white Nike VaporMax — was special.

Schools ranging from Michigan to Iowa to Missouri have offered Thompson. Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times.

Schools ranging from Michigan to Iowa to Missouri have offered Thompson. Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times.

So it would make sense that Thompson’s status as a four-star wide receiver, with 12 power-conference offers and counting, is especially fun for him because he gets to check out the shoe-company apparel deals on every campus visit.

And he has a bunch of those coming up.

He’s planning second visits to Illinois and Purdue and first visits to Michigan State, Iowa and Kansas State. He’s been in talks recently with LSU and Penn State — two programs that, if offered, would arguably be his most prestigious suitors yet — and is hoping to schedule visits there, too. And Michigan, Minnesota and Missouri also remain in the mix.

“My mind has been changing a lot, actually,” Thompson admitted.

Ranked No. 5 among Illinois 2020 recruits by 247Sports, the 6-2 wideout should have one of the most heated recruiting battles in the area this fall, as he’s eyeing his Nov. 8 birthday as a target day to announce his commitment.

“I always dreamed of it as a kid, and then sophomore year, I got my first big-time offer from University of Illinois,” he said. “Ever since then, I’ve always been grateful that it’s happened to me, because this is always a dream ever since I was 5 years old.”

Marist receiver Jadon Thompson. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.

Thompson has scored 10 touchdowns each of the past two seasons for the RedHawks. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.

But first comes his senior season at Marist, which is hoping to improve upon its 11-2 record and appearance in the Class 8A semifinals last season — a year in which Thompson hauled in 51 receptions for 759 yards and 10 touchdowns.

RedHawks coach Ron Dawczak said Thompson’s impact in the offense is two-fold, as his explosive, game-breaking skills provide a major aerial threat, and the double-teams he draws also open up space for the team’s other playmakers.

“With his combination of height and speed and great hands, he really is like the ideal receiver,” Dawczak said. “He can go up and get it over defenders because of his size, and he can outrun defenders to get himself open as well. Our quarterbacks like throwing to him because he has such a big catch radius and his hands are phenomenal, so obviously the ball doesn’t need to be perfect every time.”

Thompson has spent the offseason trying to bulk up, increasing his weight from 158 to 170 pounds so far with a target of 175. Marist opens next season with Lake Zurich and Notre Dame prior to a massive Sept. 20 battle against rival Brother Rice, the source of the RedHawks’ only two losses last fall.

Thompson’s recruiting hullabaloo will only have increased by then — and his shoe collection likely will have, too — but Dawczak plans to give his superstar receiver one piece of vital advice when the whirlwind starts getting especially windy.

“He needs to focus on controlling what he can control, and what he can control at this point is being the best high school football player for our program that he can possibly be,” Dawcak said. “And a lot of the coaches that have come through here have given him that same advice.”

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