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Kendal Thompson's time had arrived, he told his father.
He had earned the trust of Utah's coaches.
He knew everything Oregon's defense would do.
"In his mind, he was going to lead Utah to an upset over Oregon on a national stage," said Charles Thompson, who felt the same way before he led No. 2 Oklahoma past No. 1 Nebraska as a redshirt freshman in 1987.
And his son might have been right. Utah opened the game with nine positive-yardage plays and a touchdown. But on the next drive, before the junior quarterback could even be said to have had his 15 minutes, his time abruptly ended.
Charles Thompson and Kendal's mother, Kori Thompson, were in attendance that November night, heartbroken as their son hobbled back onto the field in street clothes.
They thought of all he'd endured: leaving behind his teammates, his family and his young daughter at Oklahoma, only to learn that Travis Wilson would be cleared to play, after all. Fighting to seize the reins. And then this, the dreaded ACL injury.
"I could have thrown up, to be quite honest," Charles Thompson said.
But though many young adults have lost their athletic ambitions along with that half-inch-wide, 2-inch-long band of tissue fiber, Thompson quickly determined that his dream was not over.
In fact, he consoled his parents.
"He was just upbeat about it," Charles said. "He just said it's a minor setback for a big comeback."
Thompson has since had an almost superhuman recovery, casting doubt on the notion that the starting quarterback job is simply "Wilson's job to lose" come August.
His family began its research the night of the Oregon game. Thompson reached out to Oklahoma NFL products Adrian Peterson, Mark Bradley, Ryan Broyles and Aaron Colvin particularly intrigued by the plan that allowed Peterson to rush for 2,097 yards just nine months after his knee blowout.
He was told he could cut weeks off his recovery time by being aggressive during "prehab" and pushing himself in the days after injury.
Thanks to a high pain tolerance and the work of Utah's training staff, Charles said, Thompson would have been capable of playing this spring. He expects to be fully cleared in May.
That's a six-month recovery, and it might be a record.
He'll spend two weeks of his post-spring downtime training at Houston's IX Innovations gym, which caters to NFL players and other elite athletes and is owned by the brother of Texans running back Arian Foster. After a short visit with family, he'll be back for summer conditioning in June.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said it's too early to say whether this fall's quarterback competition will look like last year's, when Wilson and Thompson evenly divided the No. 1 reps and every completion and incompletion was dissected in the extreme.
But Thompson and Wilson again will receive the most reps, he said.
Co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Aaron Roderick said increased familiarity with the offense and more developed relationships among Thompson, Wilson and their teammates will create a "healthy situation" this fall camp, "where a year ago, there was a lot of unknowns."
"We didn't know a lot about Kendal, we didn't know how Travis was going to play in a new offense, we had players learning new things. There was a lot of stress for everyone."
Their 2014 statistics don't reflect the seesawing battle between the two. Wilson had six times as many passing yards, nine times as many touchdowns and five times as many rushing scores, but he also appeared in six more games than Thompson. And Thompson owns two of the season's brightest moments: the first drive against the title game runners-up and the second half of a dramatic road upset against No. 8 UCLA.
Thompson also expects to be in a better position to compete this fall, he said.
"I know the offense, I'm getting mental reps every day, I'm in the meeting room every day and I'm also getting some continuity with the receivers, which is what kind of hurt me when I first got here."
Senior wideout Kenneth Scott has marveled at Thompson's dedication after seeing the laminated sheet of goals Thompson hangs in his room and observing Thompson's laser focus on the live reps he's been excluded from this spring.
"He'll be like, 'That's one high, he should have went there,' " Scott said.
And Thompson has made the most of the participation he's been allowed, Roderick said, becoming a better thrower.
Even if he doesn't beat out Wilson for the starting job, "We're still open to all possibilities of using both of those guys however we've got to do [it] to win," Roderick said, adding that in the past five years, an average of less than 20 teams have finished the season having used just one starter.
But Thompson, history shows, won't want to wait.
Measurables • 6-2, 195
Year • Senior (no redshirt available)
At Oklahoma • Played in just two games in 2013, going 4 of 13 for 64 yards, one touchdown and one interception, but had been expected to compete for the starting job before breaking his foot on the first day of fall camp.
Personal • Earned a degree in communication at OU and is working toward a second degree in positive psychology. Mother, Kori Thompson, is half-Kiowa. Has a 3-year-old daughter named Kynleigh.
Vs. Travis Wilson • Utah used both quarterbacks in six games last season before awarding Thompson the starting job against Oregon after Wilson struggled at Arizona State. All told, Thompson threw for 324 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions and rushed for 192 yards and a score, while Wilson threw for 2,170 yards, 18 touchdowns and five interceptions and rushed for 309 yards and five touchdowns. -
P At Rice-Eccles Stadium, Saturday, 1 p.m.
TV • Pac-12