Dylan Thompson is an NFL Quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. Having played in the NFL as well as played in Peyton Mannings summer camps, Dylan has had the privileged experience of observing Peyton throughout his great career. Although Dylan’s “off season” is almost as busy as the regular season, he was kind enough to spend some time talking football and reflecting on what Peyton Manning meant to him and to the entire game of football:
Jay: It’s been a few months since football season has come to an end, yet every sports show you watch or listen to is talking football! Seems like we can never get enough of football. What’s the off season like for you as a player?
Dylan: In a certain sense it’s almost as if the season hasn’t ended. It’s definitely not as intense and I do take a week or so off after the season, but then it’s back to work. I make it my business to work hard every day so that my routine resembles the regular season. I get up early, spend around two hours working out in the stadium, and then another two hours watching film. As a player it’s my obligation to stay ready and sharp.
Jay: Seems pretty intense. What would happen if you didn’t put in those kind of hours?
Dylan: I’d lose my job, it’s as simple as that. Playing in the NFL doesn’t happen by accident, and you don’t wake up one day when the season rolls around ready to play. It’s constant and consistent work to keep yourself in top shape. I’m thankful that I have the privilege to play in the NFL, and the hard work is all well worth it. I’ve always had to work hard to succeed, and although you can’t win every game, I’ll always know that I gave all my energy into every game and never took my opportunity for granted.
Jay: Sounds similar to what Peyton Manning said in his farewell speech a few months ago, where he said “There were other players that were more talented, but there was no one who could out-prepare me, And because of that, I have no regrets.” Did you have any interaction with Peyton?
Dylan: It’s funny you bring that up Jay. Peyton was the role model for the sport of football. I had the privilege of being a counselor in Peyton’s football camp. While there were so many players in his camp, whenever he saw me, he always made it his business to come over and say, “Hey how are things going?” It wasn’t a long conversation, but it’s the little and sincere things that make players like Peyton Manning so great. To me one of the biggest things about Peyton was his humility. He had cameras around all the time, but he always humble himself to be there for other guys. He’ll be missed for sure, but we’ll never forget what he brought to the game.
Jay: You’re the backup quarter back for the San Francisco 49ers. What’s your mindset when you’re watching a game.
Dylan: It’s an interesting and very challenging position to play. On the one hand people think, you don’t play in every game so it’s a front row seat to a great football game. If I took that approach, I’d be fired immediately. The responsibility of being a backup is to stay extremely focused on the game, both offense and defense during the entire game. You never know when your number will be called, but when it is you’ve got to come in as if you were playing the entire game until that point. There is no time for review when you’ve got to step in. It’s got to be as seamless as possible. Many times the game goes by and you’re not called and you’ll feel like you really wanted to play in that game, so that aspect is challenging. But the amount of focus and learning experience you get by studying every play of the game is unbelievable. For me it’s a mindset for life, you don’t always know when you’ll be called on, but make sure that whenever you’re called you’ll be ready.
Jay: Everyone talks about the need for leadership in the game of football. What’s that like at the Quarter back position?
Dylan: There’s no question about it. Football is the ultimate leadership sport. However, I think there are two other major components that you need especially at the quarter back position. When I get into the huddle, I’m 24 years old and there are guys there much older than me. It takes a tremendous amount of confidence to call that play. You’ve got to have every single player dialed into the play, and they need to trust you that you’ll call the right play and execute it. If they see doubt in my eyes, it’s over. These guys can go out there and execute any play you call, but if you don’t show them absolute confidence, the play is dead before it starts.
The second element is communication. Every single play has to have all 12 guys doing exactly what they need to do. If 11 guys understand your message and just one guy doesn’t, the play will be a disaster. So not only do you need to get your message out clearly, you need to get every single player on the same page. There is so much communication in the NFL. I think that’s what makes football the ultimate team sport.