South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson is set to take the reigns for the Gamecocks for the first time this season.
The fifth-year-senior has seen plenty of playing time throughout his time in Columbia, but he’ll now become the face of one of the nation’s top college football programs.
After backing up Connor Shaw for the last several seasons, Thompson will get his first test as the team’s leader when his Gamecocks host Texas A&M Thursday.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. He’s As Religious As Tim Tebow
Thompson tries to attend Shandon Baptist Church in Columbia every Sunday, even when South Carolina doesn’t return from away games until 5 a.m.
He writes about it frequently on his Twitter account, which has more than 21,000 followers — a number that ballooned when he came off the bench and led USC to a win over Clemson, and then threw the game-winning touchdown pass in the Outback Bowl against Michigan.
“Don’t follow me,” his Twitter bio says. “Follow Jesus.”
2. He Proposed to His Girlfriend on the Field at Williams-Brice Stadium
— Dylan Thompson (@DT_ONE_SEVEN) July 27, 2014
Thompson proposed to his girlfriend, Melanie Helm, at the 50-yard-line at Williams-Brice Stadium in July.
“Had to break twitter for this… WE’RE ENGAGED!!!! Wow. God is so GREAT!!! Love you Mel!! #TogetherForHisGlory” Thompson tweeted.
The couple met at a Christian convention in Atlanta. Soon thereafter, they openly discussed their regretful, early college pasts, because “we didn’t want the other one to be blindsided,” she said.
The couple is set to be married in July 2015.
3. He Hails From the Same School as Former Carolina Quarterback Phil Petty
Thompson was a two-sport star (basketball and football) at Boiling Springs (S.C.) High School, the same high school that produced former Carolina quarterback Phil Petty (’98-’01). Petty was a three-year starter at South Carolina and went 16-6 in his final 22 starts.
While in high school, Thompson threw for 1,300 yards and rushed for another 500, accounting for 21 touchdowns in only six games as a junior as the Bulldogs went 8-4 before losing to eventual AAAA state finalist Sumter. His senior season, he was hindered by a shoulder injury and was only a two-star prospect when coach Steve Spurrier recruited him.
4. He Can Scramble
Thompson has deceptive mobility for a quarterback. He may not blow past any defenders, but he’s more than capable of escaping pressure and extending the play.
In 2012, Thompson replaced an injured Shaw against 11th-ranked Clemson and completed 23 of 41 passes for 310 yards and 3 touchdowns on the way to a 27-17 win.
In South Carolina’s Outback Bowl matchup against Michigan that season, Thompson continued to show his value to the Gamecocks. Spurrier was able to send Thompson in, cold off of the bench, to spell Shaw and continue to run the offense without missing a beat.
In that game, Thompson picked up where he had left off against Clemson, completing seven of his 10 throws for 117 yards and two touchdowns, including a game-winning bomb to Bruce Ellington with 11 seconds left.
5. He’s Says He’s Ready to Finally Be ‘The’ Guy
Thompson’s 3-0 as a starter with 25 games under his belt and is 120-of-218 passing with 1,827 yards, 14 touchdowns and five interceptions in his career.
The only real question is whether he’s up for being the guy at South Carolina.
“Being the quarterback at this school and being from in-state, it’s a fun thing,” Thompson said at SEC Media Days. “It’s a lot of fun having people look at you and ask you stuff wherever you go. I want them to know I’m putting in more time than any quarterback in the SEC and in the country. I’m sure there are a lot of guys that work hard, but I always try to remind myself that there’s somebody at Baylor, at UCLA, at another university that’s working to be great. Where have I done myself today to be great?”