By JOHN INMAN
HEAVENER – Citing personal reasons, John Thompson plans to step down as head football coach at Heavener High School.
The announcement has not yet been made, but there is speculation he will resign before the end of this school year.
“Yes, he has said he plans to step down, but he has not given an official resignation,” confirmed Ed Wilson, Superintendent of Heavener Schools. “He told us he plans to get out (of coaching). He will stay within our system.”
Thompson indicated he wants to stay in Heavener, and work with the boys and girls weight program at the high school and teach driver’s education. The coaching vacancy has been posted with the Oklahoma coaches association, Wilson added.
“This is not something real easy to do, this is what is best for my family. I love the game of football, we love Heavener, I grew up here, but I’ve got a family to think about. I’ve got to get a break from the ridicule. I have to go home every night, my family has to listen to everything that is being said around town and in the stands every Friday night,” said Thompson, who has been at the helm for 10 seasons with five (of those teams) advancing to the state playoffs five times, including 2011 when the Wolves finished with a 4-6 record.
Overall, Thompson is 44-62. He is the second Heavener coach to have graduated from Heavener High School. Kester Trent was a 1931 grad and he came back as coach in 1947. Thompson is an ’83 grad and returned in 1994 as an assistant and succeeded Doyle Harvell in 2002.
Last season’s team won three of its last four games to gain a berth in the playoffs, which ended after one game in a loss to Stroud by a 47-7 score. His 2008 team fell to Chandler in the playoffs, but in his first three years the Wolves earned berths and came away with postseason victories in both ’02 and ’04.
“My first 3 years we had good football teams, kids had mommas and daddys that cared, made sure their kids came to weight room and get ready for football. Your parents have to back you, your family is everything, but I haven’t seen that since,” Thompson lamented.
Thompson said he is not ruling out returning to coaching. “I have a boy in the eighth grade and one in the fifth and I plan to do what is best for my family,” he said. “If that means getting back into coaching, I will.”
Thompson was 6-4, 250 pounds when he was a senior at Heavener and earned a scholarship to Southeastern Oklahoma in Durant. He grew to 270 in college and ran a 4.6 in the 40-yard dash, he added. He was recruited as an offensive lineman but eventually moved to defense.
After graduating Southeastern, he entered the coach ranks at Prosper, Texas, stayed five years, moved to Aubrey, Texas for a year and came back as an assistant to Harvell in 1994.
“It wasn’t a goal (of mine) to come back and coach at Heavener. I got a phone call and was told there was an opening, if I was interested,” noted Thompson. “I started thinking, maybe it’s not a bad idea.”
He had helped Todd Vickers, a former Wolves player, get into Southeastern and Vickers’ father, Mike, still had Thompson’s phone number in Texas.
Thompson was the son of a Methodist preacher in Wister, but his father died when Thompson was at a young age. His mother, Wilma, married Charles Johnston and the family moved to Heavener.
He said his assistants and the current Heavener gridders have heard the rumor about Thompson’s stepping down but nobody has said anything to him, either way.
“I get blamed every Friday night. I’m a hero or I’m a dummy,” Thompson said. “My family hears all the talk. I cut and bleed like everyone else, and I bleed purple and gold, it’s just one of those things.
“A lot of it goes back to what happened to my brother, he was 48. I’m 46, I guess there a fear of it happening to me, I’ve gone to the doctor, had a CT scan on heart. There was a little blockage, not enough to have anything done now. It’s just time (to get away from coaching).”
Thompson’s brother, Mark, was a 1981 graduate of Heavener and died near the end of last season and the toll proved to be rough on the Thompson family.