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Sugar Bowl: With legal issues hanging over his head, Thompson prepares to start for Tide

December 30, 2017 GMT

NEW ORLEANS — When others passed judgement, Deionte Thompson had his family — both in Texas and Tuscaloosa.

Thompson, Alabama’s redshirt sophomore safety, was indicted in late October on a charge of felony aggravated assault. According to court documents obtained by The Anniston Star, Thompson was one of two men who kicked 18-year-old Noah Frillou in the head during a March 18 fight in Crystal Beach.

One witness “clearly remembered (Thompson’s) white Alabama hat.” Court documents said Thompson was wearing a white Alabama cap backward, a white sleeveless shirt, and gray and red shorts on the day of the fight.

Saturday, in the first public comments of his Alabama career, Thompson thanked his family and teammates for their unwavering support during this nearly year-long ordeal.

“I just had my family,” Thompson said Saturday during the Sugar Bowl media day, when all players for both teams are made available to reporters. “They supported me through all of it. It was just good having them on my side — my family in my corner and my teammates. With those guys, I feel like it’s all I really needed. They had the love and support for me and I was able to get through it.”

Thompson’s attorney, Sean Villery-Samuel, has denied his client’s involvement to multiple media outlets. He has not responded to multiple requests for comment from The Anniston Star.

Shortly after Thompson’s indictment, Tide coach Nick Saban released a brief statement that read, in part, “we are not going to make any judgements until that process has been completed.”

Thompson was scheduled to appear in Galveston, Texas’ 122nd District Court on Dec. 21 but Villery-Samuel filed a motion for continuance “asking the Court to grant him leave to wrap up his obligations for the University.”

The court granted the motion. Thompson is scheduled to make his first court appearance Feb. 2, according to Galveston County Court records.

In the motion, Villery-Samuel specifically cited Thompson’s final exams and the Tide’s College Football Playoff semifinal against Clemson — a game in which Thompson is primed to play the most pronounced role of his two-year career.

Thompson is the presumed starter at safety in place of senior Hootie Jones, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Tide’s 26-14 loss to Auburn.

“I approach every game just like a starter, prepare just like a starter just in case something happens and I had to go in,” Thompson said. “I approach every game like a starter and that’s the mindset you have to have.”

Thompson began his career as a wide receiver, catching Tide defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt’s eye during preparation for the 2015 College Football Playoff — when the lanky, 6-foot-2 receiver “flashed” on a route.

“Has some range about him in the back end,” Pruitt said Friday. “He loves to practice, he loves ball and when he’s had an opportunity to play this year, he’s played well — he’s been a really good special teams player for us — so he’ll get some opportunities in the next game.”

Thompson has 18 tackles — including one for loss — and notched his first career interception against Mercer on Nov. 18. Had a career high five tackles against the Bears, too — confidence for a young player who will see competition escalate Monday inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Older teammates have rallied around the embattled Thompson, who denied the charge and accusations levied against him on Saturday, ensuring he is football focused for the biggest stage of his young career.

“I was able to put everything to the side and not worry about it — just focus on football and focus on what was going on with my teammates and being with those guys,” Thompson said. “It took a lot of pressure off of me. I was able to practice and get back to what I’m doing.”