Makei Thompson is ‘heart and soul’ for the Mira Mesa football team

If you take in a Mira Mesa High football game and want to check out the Marauders’ most dynamic player, senior Makei Thompson, there’s one place you shouldn’t look: the bench.

Thompson never sits. He’s a starting running back, starting cornerback, returns punts and kickoffs, plays on the kickoff team and even holds on PATs and field goals. The only time he’s guaranteed a blow is when the Marauders punt.

Sitting in the coaches’ office, right next to the Marauders’ weightlifting room, Thompson is asked if he ever gets tired. He leans back in a swivel chair, breaks into a 100-watt smile and says, “Oh yeah, 100 percent. But that’s kind of where I just think about the whole collective team. I know everyone else is tired, so why should I come out?”

For the 10th-ranked Marauders (3-1), who visit Grossmont on Friday night, Thompson is not only busy, he’s productive.

He averages 154.5 yards rushing per game, sixth in the San Diego Section. Tack on his receiving and return work and Thompson averages 218.2 all-purpose yards. At cornerback, according to head coach Aurelio Morales, Thompson has allowed one completed pass.

“He is an absolute, shut-down corner,” said defensive coordinator Phil Lomax. “I can put him on anybody in the county and he can absolutely lock him down.”

What makes Thompson’s work load and skill all the more impressive is his size. At 5-feet-8, 160 pounds, he’s small even as high school backs go. But pound for pound, Morales said it would be difficult to find a better player.

“He is a dog,” said Morales. “One of the toughest kids in the county.”

Because it’s offense that draws the most TV attention, video highlights and statistics, Thompson is best known for his skills running the football. Despite his modest size, he can be physical between the tackles. But he’s most dangerous when he seeps into the second level and darts into the secondary.

“I’d say he’s very dynamic in the open field,” said Otay Ranch coach Brad Burton, whose team was lit up for 220 yards rushing on just 15 carries by Thompson. “He has a next level ability to make people miss.”

Thompson — who is not related to former Mira Mesa coach Chris Thompson, who died early last season — has dialed long distance on some of his nine TDs, including scoring runs of 70, 83 and 90 yards.

“That kid doesn’t quit,” said Scripps Ranch coach Marlon Gardinera, whose Falcons gave up 207 yards on 20 carries to Thompson. “For goodness sakes, when you think you’ve got this kid, here it comes, he’s gone. That is a resilient, tenacious, powerful back.”

Thompson plays the game with unabashed joy. On one play last week against Scripps Ranch, Thompson juked a defender then reached the sideline when a fraction of his foot hit the chalk in front of Gardinera, ending the play.

Recalled Gardinera, “He looks at me, points to me, smiles and says, ‘You know if the tip of my toe wasn’t (out of bounds), I was out of here.’ He knew it and I knew it was true. He would have been off to the races. He’s a good kid.”

To some opponents it must seem like Thompson has been around since the Obama administration. He has played on the varsity since he was a freshman, compiling 2,066 yards rushing.

“It’s been four great years,” he said. “I wouldn’t change it for anything. I love this program, what they do here.”

One thing the Marauders do is take care of their bodies, which helps Thompson carry a heavy load. He credits his durability to multiple factors.

The team lifts weights twice a week during the season, stretches three times a week for 45 minutes under the supervision of a yoga instructor, is dutiful about hydrating, consumes salt to prevent cramping and the team room includes a refrigerator stocked with bread, peanut butter and jelly.

Asked how many PB&J sandwiches he consumes a day, Thompson says, “It depends on what kind of jelly we have. I’m a strawberry guy. If we’ve got strawberry, I might eat two or three, depends on the day.”

To relax, Thompson likes to fish.

“I like being out in nature,” he said. “It’s just you, you’re kind of by yourself and you’re quiet.”

Thompson has yet to be offered a scholarship, although he has drawn interest, he said, from San Diego State, Weber State, Cal Poly and San Jose State.

He knows his size scares off some college recruiters, and said the lack of an offer doesn’t bother him.

“It’s more of a challenge,” he said. “I know I have to work harder than most guys out there because I don’t pass the eye test. I just try to do everything I can on the field.”

There is one place Thompson’s skills will never be undervalued: inside the Mira Mesa locker room.

Said Lomax, the defensive coordinator, “He is literally the heart and soul of who we are.”

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