Norman, Okla. When Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops dismissed his starting quarterback from the team, he told his players not to go looking for excuses for the upcoming season. What they found instead was a leader.
After Rhett Bomar was kicked off the squad, Stoops asked Paul Thompson to be his new quarterback. And then he told the team to believe in him.
"I felt Paul Thompson would be every bit as good if not better," Stoops said on a conference call Monday. "We told the team immediately, I said: 'Now, if you're looking for an excuse or for our expectations to change or that we're not going to have a chance to win the Big 12 South, it will not be because of Paul Thompson.' And I truly meant that.
"Paul is a good football player, a great character guy who's worked hard, has maturity to him. And we felt he would do really well if the guys around him would help him."
Stoops gives credit to Thompson for an MVP-type performance, leading the eighth-ranked Sooners (10-2, 7-1 Big 12) past early season struggles, controversy and injuries for a berth in the Big 12 football championship game Saturday against No. 19 Nebraska (9-3, 6-2).
"What he's meant to this team and how he's directed it, the calming influence he's been on the offense - the offense has had most of the changes, with injuries and everything else - Paul has been the steady force behind it all," Stoops said.
Thompson is one of only two seniors on an offense made up mostly of sophomores and freshmen. While he's lingered in the background as a backup to Jason White and Nate Hybl, Thompson has picked up tons of respect - even after agreeing to move to receiver last season to allow Bomar to develop into Oklahoma's quarterback of the future.