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Newcomer Profile: Fateful Phone Call Made QB Casey Thompson a Perfect Fit at Oklahoma

The Sooners needed a backup for Jackson Arnold, but they also wanted someone with college football experience — he's got plenty of that — and a unique love for OU.

NORMAN — Having spent his adult life in Norman, Austin, Lincoln and Boca Raton, FL, Casey Thompson admitted being a little caught off guard when his phone rang with a call from North Carolina.

On the other end was Oklahoma’s new offensive coordinator, Seth Littrell.

The Sooners were in the market for a quarterback in 2024, and no one offered a better fit than Thompson.

“Just talking to him was good to hear,” Thompson said at OU’s spring media day last week. “And then I connected with coach BV (Brent Venables) after that. It wasn’t a whole lot of back and forth or working through the process. It was more so, ‘Hey we’re interested.’ For me, it was, ‘I wanna be at OU; I wanna be at Oklahoma.’ ”

Now, Thompson is back — back where he was a high school football star at Southmoore and Newcastle, back where his brother Kendal played three seasons for the Sooners and graduated from OU, back where his dad Charles became first famous and then infamous as Barry Switzer’s last wishbone quarterback.

It was probably the easiest recruiting experience Venables and Littrell will ever have.

“It didn’t really take too much to convince me to come back home,” Thompson said. “Obviously I know the importance of OU football living in Oklahoma. … It was a real easy process. I grew up here, so no one has to sell me on the OU brand. No one has to sell me on the importance of Oklahoma football or what it means to this community and this fan base.”

Thompson, 25, always wanted to go to OU. His first plan was to play quarterback for the Sooners under Lincoln Riley. But Riley instead chose Cameron Rising out of high school, and Thompson committed to Texas. Then Rising flipped to Texas. Then Rising transferred to Utah. Then Riley flipped to USC. Then Thompson transferred to Nebraska. Then Thompson transferred to Florida Atlantic.

Then he hurt his knee, and he got a seventh year of college football — and now he’s in Norman.

“It’s been fun,” Venables said. “I’ve known the family for a long time. … Casey’s just phenomenal. He’s got a depth of experience as a quarterback. He epitomizes what you want from a work-ethic and a commitment standpoint to his craft, his teammates. He’s got wonderful leadership traits that he’s gonna immediately be able to bring some things that maybe that group of guys as a young group doesn’t already have. They were all able — Jackson was able to learn, along with General (Booty), learn from Dillon (Gabriel). That was a wonderful opportunity for them. Now this is an opportunity for Casey to plant some more seeds.”

How long has Thompson been around? When he was a high school senior at Newcastle, the Sooners' quarterback was Baker Mayfield. When he was a Texas freshman in 2018, Kyler Murray was driving the OU bus. With a redshirt season and a COVID year and multiple injuries, he has the rare distinction of being able to play seven years in college.

“After the (2023) season,” Thompson said, “I was sitting back and reflecting saying, ‘Hey, am I gonna do another year of college football?”

That reflection came while OU was preparing to play Arizona in the Alamo Bowl. Gabriel was the Sooners' two-year starter but had just entered the transfer portal, and Arnold, OU's 5-star freshman, was the future of the program.

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“That’s when I started to realize this could be a reality,” Thompson said. “But it took a few weeks trying to work through that process. I found out the week after the bowl game, and I took about a week or 10 days to announce it.”

He said soon after the Alamo Bowl was “when I started to have heavy contact with the coaching staff,” after he’d been in the portal for a few weeks.

Littrell called one night right before the family was headed out to eat dinner.

“We were all excited about it,” Thompson said. “This was around the holidays, and once I knew I was most likely gonna be coming here, we celebrated and I got to enjoy the holidays with my family for a little bit.”

Thompson has been a Sooner for two months now, and it has exceeded the dream.

“I was just telling my family and friends yesterday, this is one of the best cultures and the best teams I’ve been on my whole life,” he said.

Soon after Littrell’s call, during a conversation with Venables, Thompson was able to express what he really wanted. Maybe it surprised Venables. Maybe it didn’t.

“Coach Venables was like, ‘What are you looking for?’ ” Thompson recalled. “I told him I just wanted to be back home. Allow me to be on the team. Be a part of the team and compete. I said, 'I don’t need any guarantees as far as NIL deals and that stuff. Just allow me to be on the team, compete and help out any way I can.' That was all it was about.

“They’re like, ‘OK, let us work through this process. Let’s wait a few weeks and wait until the school and campus open back and then we’ll be good to go.’ “

Thompson’s been a Longhorn, a Cornhusker and an Owl, but he’s always had one eye on the Sooners. When Riley left and was replaced by Venables, his interest was truly piqued. In fact, it was Venables, Thompson said, that pulled him back to Norman.

“Really the motivating factor for me, and one of the main reasons, was BV and his staff, what they’ve been building here for the last few years,” Thompson said. “ … I’ve been around every offseason. I’ve seen how the community has fully embraced Coach Venables and I definitely wanted to be a part of it. As I get here inside this building, just seeing the bond, the brotherhood that this team has, the people that he has in place in leadership roles, the leaders on the team — and the biggest thing is the off-the-field stuff. The community engagement, the life skills and the SOUL Mission that we have here. As you guys know, he’s real big on that.

“In my mind, in my heart, I knew that I would like to be back here in Oklahoma if there was an opportunity. Once I got that initial phone call, I knew that there was interest. There was a lot of talk and buzz going around the town, ‘Is Casey going to come back?’ I just tried to control what I can control. Focus on my rehab, spending time with my family, enjoying the holidays. Once those conversations started, it wasn’t 100 percent sure but I knew there was a pretty good possibility it was gonna happen.”

Once it happened, Thompson immediately began taking advantage of OU’s top-shelf medical staff to rehab his damaged knee.

“The knee’s doing good,” he said. “I’m at 5 1/2-6 months. I’ve been running. Haven’t been putting too much out about it, just doing my rehab here. I’ve been running straight ahead with my knee brace and I got cleared a few weeks ago by a doctor to push off a little bit and throw — even though I’ve already been throwing for a few months. I’m excited about it, just progressing like I’m supposed to. Definitely on or a little bit ahead of schedule. My goal is to throw a little bit during the spring and then in the summer I’ll be ready to go.”

Venables reiterated that Thompson has been focused on rehabbing his knee and “won’t do anything with the team stuff in all likelihood,” but that won’t diminish his value to his new team.

“He brings so much to the table,” Venables said. “He’s a competitor. He’ll want to get out there and have a go at it, and everything has its time from that standpoint. But he’s immediately able to bring a veteran presence to that room and someone the younger guys can lean on. Been a starter several college games — 50-games plus — and has had a lot of success quarterbacking.”

Thompson has actually played in 33 college football games — 20 in four years at Texas (he redshirted in 2018), 10 in one year at Nebraska and three in one year at FAU. His career statistics are good: 2,113 yards, a .632 completion percentage and 24 touchdowns with nine interceptions in his final season at Texas, and 2,407 yards, a .631 completion percentage, 17 TDs and 10 INTs in his lone season at Nebraska. 

He comes to OU having completed 408-of-643 career passes (.635) for 5,338 yards with 52 touchdowns, 24 picks and a 152.4 passer efficiency rating.

Thompson has been around long enough to know that Arnold is the starter and very likely the immediate future of the position at OU. But Thompson vows to be ready no matter what.

“My goal for this team — obviously, I want us to compete and win at a high level. I’m here to provide any help that I can,” he said. “There’s no guarantees because, you know, there’s a lot of factors that have to come into play. Everything will have to add up for me to hit a home run. I’m just trying to control what I can control. That’s my mindset: my work ethic, my health, my rehab.

“As far as how the dominos will stack up in the quarterback room, I think Jackson Arnold is a great player. He’s a very talented kid. He’s physically gifted and he’s a smart guy, hard worker. Mike Hawkins throws a great ball and General Booty, people don’t really see him, but he works really hard behind closed doors. He knows the system. He’s very professional the way he goes about his business. And then we have Brendan Zurbrugg. So we have a lot of capable guys in that room. Every day as I kinda watch them and I’m sizing myself up, it’s natural for you to wonder, ‘Where I will fit in?’ But I’m a competitive guy. When I’m healthy enough and able to go out there and compete in practice, obviously I wanna play, I wanna contribute to the team, and I wanna be ready to play. If I’m not the starter, I’ll be one play away and ready to go as a backup.

“My goals for this season (are) No. 1, to get healthy. No. 2, I wanna enjoy my last year of college football. That’s a very big deal to me. I want to grow off the field as a man and in my relationships, my relationship with Christ. It’s exciting for me to be back here around my church, my family and being able to go to church with my teammates. That’s a big deal to me. And then my goal for this season is just to provide anything that I can for this team this fall — on and off the field, as a leader, as a quarterback.”