Cody Thompson - Toledo

Rocket wide receiver finds volunteering as natural as catching a football

By: Paul Helgren -

Cody Thompson always knew he wanted to help people. He just wasn’t sure where to begin.

Luckily for the University of Toledo wide receiver, opportunities for volunteer work are plentiful when you’re a Rocket.

“The coaches really encourage us to get involved,” said Thompson. “(Director of player personnel) Nate Cole posts a community service opportunity every week that anyone can sign up for. It can be anything for going to the Boys and Girls Club or Toledo Children’s Hospital, or reading at an elementary school, or packing meals at Ronald McDonald House. It makes it a lot easier if you want to help out but don’t know where to start.”

Thompson points to one event in the summer following his freshman season at UT that sparked his interest in volunteer work. That is the first time he experienced “Victory Day,” an annual event in which the UT Football team hosts students with special needs, allowing them to experience what it’s like to be a Rocket football player. After that experience, Thompson decided to sign up for any volunteer opportunity that was available, especially those involving children.

“My favorite event is Victory Day,” said Thompson. “It’s amazing to be out there with some of the kids who have disabilities or who are struggling in life. On that day they get to be the star for an hour, or if it’s the five minutes they score a touchdown with us. The smile on their face is worth more than anything. It takes almost no effort on our part other than being there and being supportive during the time that they are there.

“Some of those kids are fighting through some things I could never imagine. Being able to take their mind off their problems and make them feel like they are on top of the world for an hour is something that anybody can do. It’s very rewarding.

“Doing something so small can be monumental to someone else.”

Like most student-athletes, Thompson has a busy schedule, juggling the commitment to his sport with class work. Nevertheless, he is usually able to find a few hours each week to volunteer, especially in the off-season.

“It can be challenging at times but I’m really organized when it comes to my schedule,” said Thompson. “I always want to know what’s going on, what I need to do next. That way I can know when to fit in studying, whether it’s early in the morning or late at night, or in between practice. I’m not a video-gamer or anything like that, so I don’t waste too much of my time.”

Thompson’s work off the field has not gone unnoticed. He was recognized as a leading candidate for three national service awards last season, the Wuerffel Trophy, the NCAA Senior Class Award and the Allstate Good Works Team. He was also named to the 2017 Academic All-District team, and was a candidate for the Campbell Trophy, presented annually to the college football player with the best combination of academics and on-field performance. He received his bachelor’s degree in marketing last December and is working on his master’s degree.

Football has brought challenges of its own. Thompson missed most of last year due to season-ending knee surgery following an injury that he suffered vs. Eastern Michigan last October. At the time of his injury, he was fourth in the nation in receiving yards (126.3 per game), following a 2016 campaign in which he earned first-time All-MAC honors, catching 64 passes, 11 of them for touchdowns, and breaking the school record with 1,269 receiving yards. He was granted an additional year of eligibility by the NCAA, is fully recovered from his injury and is looking forward to his second “senior” season. He played in the team’s spring intra-squad scrimmage and declared himself 100 percent fit.

If all goes well next fall, Thompson likely will be a strong candidate to play in the NFL. But whether he ends up playing professional football or not, Thompson knows what he will be doing with his extra time.

“No matter what I do next, I’m going to continue to volunteer to help others in whatever community I’m in. Maybe it’s just a family or one kid or a hundred people, it doesn’t matter. Helping one person is enough to go out of your way.

“I know if I was in their shoes, I would appreciate it.”

Originally posted in University of Toledo Alumni Magazine


Why was the Wuerffel Trophy created?  We felt that there was a void in major college football awards. Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel put it best when he wrote, “The Wuerffel. It’s about time. There’s an award for the best quarterback, best running back, wide receiver, best linebacker, best center and even best kicker and punter. Why not one for the best human being?”


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