JONESBORO – Former University of Central Arkansas athletic director and alumnus John Thompson is the new defensive coordinator for Arkansas State University.
Thompson, a veteran coach with over 29 years of experience at the collegiate level, has been named the Red Wolves’ defensive coordinator under new coach Gus Malzahn.
Thompson comes to A-State after serving as Georgia State’s assistant head coach for scheduling and strategic planning and defensive coordinator. Thompson also coached inside linebackers at Georgia State, where he spent the last four seasons.
Thompson has worked 25 seasons as a coordinator and was also the head coach at East Carolina for two years. Recognized as a top defensive mind, Thompson has worked as defensive coordinator or co-coordinator at Southeastern Conference schools Mississippi, Florida, Arkansas, South Carolina and LSU, as well as at Memphis, Southern Mississippi, Louisiana Tech and Northwestern State.
As a defensive coordinator, Thompson has seen more than 40 of his defensive players drafted by, or sign with, National Football League teams. Forty of his defenders earned all-conference honors, five were named all-America, and one, former Northwestern State linebacker Gary Reasons, has been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
“We are excited to add another coach to our staff who has strong ties to the state of Arkansas,” Malzahn said. “Coach Thompson is not only well respected for the great success he’s enjoyed at the highest level of college football, but also as a person of tremendous character. We are happy to welcome him to our Arkansas State family."
Thompson came to Georgia State in July 2008 after spending the 2007 season as defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach at Ole Miss. That followed a one-year stint as athletics director at his alma mater, the University of Central Arkansas, which he guided in its move to NCAA Division I. He served as co-defensive coordinator at South Carolina in 2005.
As the head coach at East Carolina in 2003-04, he coached three first-team all-conference players and seven all-freshman selections.
Thompson was the defensive coordinator at Florida in 2002, when the Gators' pass defense was ranked seventh in the nation, allowing just 162.4 yards per game. He also spent two years at Arkansas, serving as co-defensive coordinator in 2000 and then defensive coordinator in 2001. In 2000, the Razorbacks were second in the nation in pass defense while leading the SEC in pass defense and total defense. The following year, Thompson helped lead Arkansas to the Cotton Bowl.
Thompson's first position as a defensive coordinator came at Northwestern State, where he served from 1983-86, and again from 1988-89 after spending the 1987 season as linebackers coach at Alabama.
In 1990, he became the defensive coordinator at Louisiana Tech for two seasons before moving to Southern Miss as defensive coordinator in 1992. He was given additional responsibility as assistant head coach in 1993. In Thompson's seven seasons at Southern Miss (1992-98), the Golden Eagles won or shared two Conference USA titles, twice ranked among the top 25 nationally in scoring defense and made two bowl appearances.
In one season at Memphis in 1999, his Tiger defense ranked 11th in the nation in scoring defense and 23rd in total defense.
A native of Forrest City, Thompson began as a high school coach in 1977 while pursuing his bachelor's degree at UCA. He continued to coach prep football until moving to the college ranks in 1982 as a graduate assistant at Arkansas, where he worked under Lou Holtz.
A high school quarterback, Thompson was inducted into the Forrest City High School Hall of Fame in 2006. His playing career also includes two seasons as a defensive back at Central Arkansas. He earned his bachelor's degree in physical education from UCA in 1978.
Thompson and his wife, Charleen, have two sons, Cabe and Hays. He is a brother-in-law of Steve Daniels, athletic director for Conway Public Schools.