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Where are they now? Weegie Thompson

Weegie memorable despite statistics

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

By Rich Emert, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Ask a Steelers fan if he or she remembers Willis Hope Thompson and prepare to receive a blank expression and maybe a "Who?"

Weegie Thompson
With Steelers from 1984-89

Ask if they remember Weegie Thompson and the response will probably be "Sure."

While Thompson didn't produce outstanding statistics during his six seasons as a wide receiver with the Steelers, he did have an unforgettable first name. He got the name "Weegie" from a younger brother who couldn't pronounce "Willis."

A fourth-round draft choice in 1984, Thompson was part of a Steelers' receiving corps that included Hall of Famer John Stallworth until 1987 and Louis Lipps, the Steelers' No. 1 pick in 1984.

Thompson finished his career with just 79 receptions for 1,377 yards and 11 touchdowns playing as the third receiver in the Steelers' run-first, pass-only-when-we-have-to offense.

In the pass-happy attack today, Thompson, who is 6 feet 6 and played at 215 pounds, probably would have excelled. He had good hands and was an exceptional blocker, which was something then-Steelers Coach Chuck Noll liked.

"I don't dwell on that," Thompson said when asked if he played in the NFL 15 years too soon. "I was proud to be a member of the Steelers and of the time I spent in Pittsburgh. I played hard and performed to the best of my abilities when I was there. I gave it my best and I'm pretty comfortable with that."

Thompson, 42, lives in Midlothian, Va., with his wife, Celina, and three children. His daughter, Amanda, is a high school junior and plays basketball. Sons Will, 13, and Joey, 12, play football, but are into all sports.

Will is a tight end/quarterback, while Joey is a quarterback/running back/safety. Dad is a coach.

"I never considered getting into coaching until I got involved with the kids," Thompson said. "I enjoy working with the players at their age. It's a lot of fun."

He works as a salesman for Waste Management in Virginia and travels throughout the state. He got involved with that by working for Chambers Development in Pittsburgh when his playing days ended.

"I started out with them with an eye toward them moving me to this area," he said. "I liked Pittsburgh, but this is home for me."

Thompson played quarterback for Midlothian High School, passing for 10 touchdowns and running for another eight as a senior. He was a quarterback at Florida State before being shifted to wide receiver his final two years.

With the Steelers, he never quite lived up to his or the team's expectations, although he did start 25 games.

"I always challenged myself to do more and that kept me from enjoying the game as much as maybe I should have," he said. "Maybe if I had enjoyed it more ..."

He did have moments in the spotlight. In 1986, he caught six passes for 78 yards and three touchdowns in a game against Green Bay. He finished the season with 17 catches for 191 yards and five scores.

In 1988, he caught four passes for 118 yards and a touchdown against Buffalo.

"I wish we would have gone to the Super Bowl and I wish I would have played a little better," Thompson said. "But those are things a lot of players wish for. I thought I played well."

He still follows the Steelers and has been to Heinz Field for a game. Thompson admits he doesn't watch a lot of football on television.

"I'm pretty busy with my job and with the family and everything we're involved in," he said. "But I try to keep up with what Pittsburgh is doing."

Thompson and Steelers coach Bill Cowher do have something in common. Both of their daughters are involved with AAU basketball in the summer.

"Amanda was at a tournament and somebody said that Bill Cowher was there watch his daughter play," Thompson said. "I didn't get a chance to talk to him or anything, but that was interesting."

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