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January 7, 2012

Thompson comes back around to Cal

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SAN ANTONIO - It was more than nine months ago that Shaq Thompson first committed to California. On Saturday during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, he came full circle.

"It's where I feel the most comfortable," Thompson said. "I'm going to spend my next three, four years, if I get my good education there, what if I don't make it to the pros? I'll have that waiting for me. It's the atmosphere, the coaching staff, the team. That's it."

Thompson first committed to the Bears on March 5 at Cal's Elite Junior Day, but less than a week later he recanted to make sure he explored all of his options. As recently as New Year's Day, Thompson claimed that USC was a serious contender for his services.

But Cal is a family matter for Thompson, who's older brother Syd'Quan Thompson was a star cornerback and punt returner before moving on to the NFL's Denver Broncos. His mother has said throughout the whole process that, "My baby's a Bear," and now it's official.

"Me and my brother, we're close, even though we don't talk that much. We're still close. We're blood," Thompson said. "He told me to go where I feel comfortable. Everybody's been thinking that he's been telling me to go to Cal, but to tell you the truth, he just told me to go where I was most comfortable."

Thompson became even more comfortable when he made his official visit, along with a host of other future commits, although he wasn't even planning on it. He'd been to Cal so many times over the years, there was no need for the Sacramento native to have the Bears pay for his travel just to drive out yet again, but other recruits - and Cal - persuaded him otherwise.

"Oh yeah, it was fun. They wanted me to take that official. I was going to take an unofficial visit, so I just took that for them, and it was crazy," Thompson said. "Everybody there, it was fun. We all had a good time."

The only thing new - other than the presence of his future teammates - was the near-complete Student Athlete High Performance Center.

"The new facility - the first weight room I'd been there, it wasn't all that bad, but this one was very different," Thompson said. "I'd actually been in the old one, and it was OK. It wasn't too bad."

Despite spoiling his own surprise 24 hours in advance with an errant tweet on Friday, Thompson wanted to hold off on making everything official until the game. After all the media scrutiny he's been through, the naturally soft-spoken Thompson - who, like his brother, "[doesn't] really like to talk that much, but I've had to learn to like it," - wanted to do things on his own terms.

"It's really big. I'm the first one in my family, really," Thompson said. "My brother didn't have this opportunity, and I'm really doing it for him, for myself, for my entire family."



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