By Ray Conner
“Coach” Thompson goes back to the future.
For many around the Kern River Valley, when you mention the word “coach,” the thought goes immediately to Jimmy Thompson. After all, he has been around for a while on the sidelines, court side, in the dugout, or up in the box leading Kern Valley Broncs teams to victory.
This past weekend, Thompson went back to his collegiate Alma Mater to celebrate the initial season of the college football team. It was 50 years ago, Thompson suited up as the first quarterback for the Nevada Southern Rebels. This university would later become the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV).
The initial season the Rebels led by Thompson went 8-1. Their only loss was to Cal Lutheran in the last game of the season.
Thompson, who is 70 years old, made history then and still today holds a record for the football team.
Back in 1968, Thompson was the first-ever quarterback for the team, and had the first touchdown. He was also a two-way player that roamed the football field as a safety. In his two years at Nevada Southern/UNLV, he picked off eight passes in two seasons. That ranks eighth in school history.
On Saturday, Thompson and his teammates of 50 years ago were honored at halftime of the current Rebels game. This was a chance to gather together and reminisce about the good old days of playing football. They shared their life stories, shared photos, and went back to what life on the football field was like 50 years ago.
Thompson was quoted as saying, “This brings back a lot of memories. We were just a first-year team, but we didn’t play like that. We really had a lot of fun.”
Thompson also was able to meet an old friend, his coach’s wife. Bill Ireland was the first coach of the football program and his wife, Jeannie Ireland, made the trip from Reno to be part of the festivities.
In support of this honor for Thompson, a contingent of valley folks made the trip to Nevada to cheer him on.
Closer to home there have been many athletes in Thompson’s time that he has coached at Kern Valley. His history here is almost as impressive as those marks he left at the collegiate level.
Despite being a seasoned citizen, Thompson continues to roam the sidelines if he’s able and continues to impart his wisdom to students as a substitute teacher. For most of the kids in the valley that have earned a driver license, if it wasn’t for Coach Thompson, they might never have learned to get behind the wheel of a vehicle. One might even say he was the ‘driving force’ to many earning the right to get a driver license. Coach’s Driving School allowed many would-be drivers to earn their driver’s education certificate in order to get a driver license.
Rest assured Thompson will continue making history and will continue to do so even in the future.