The move was sudden. Skylar Thompson was 8 years old when his family packed up its belongings in Palmyra, Mo., and migrated across the state into the Fort Osage School District.
The destination didn’t have any particular significance, Thompson recalled. It was simply somewhere new, and after the death of his mother, who lost a battle with breast cancer, that’s all his family sought.
A fresh start.
Thompson eventually found one on the football field.
His first encounter with the sport came in the ensuing months, when he was in the third grade, after his father asked Fort Osage High School coach Ryan Schartz to allow Thompson to serve as the team’s ball boy. After only one season, Thompson was hooked.
“I had never played football, but after that I just really, really wanted to play,” Thompson said. “I had to beg my dad.”
He was a natural. And he hasn’t stop playing football since.
Why would he?
Thompson, now a senior quarterback for Fort Osage, is set to lead the Indians into the Missouri Class 5 state championship game Saturday, when they will face Chaminade inside the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.
He’s thrown for 21 touchdowns this season. He’s run for 18 more. He’s a finalist for the Simone Award, reserved for the top football player in the Kansas City area. A future at Kansas State awaits.
But all of that was preceded by his role as a ball boy for Fort Osage — a multiyear job Schartz knew would develop into something bigger.
“He threw the ball around on the sidelines, and you could just see there was something there,” Schartz said. “You knew.”
The transition from little-league quarterback to high school star didn’t happen overnight, of course. In Thompson’s first year of football, the coaches placed him on the offensive line. In his second, he found his natural position at quarterback.
An instant infatuation.
Although he came from a family with a rich basketball background, Thompson signed up for lessons from a quarterback coach. He put PVC pipes in his backyard, then attached fishing nets to them — “hillbilly” targets for his throwing drills, he called them.
He could always pass.
The other half of his noted dual-threat capabilities — the running — came later. Schartz once worried Thompson wouldn’t hold up to the physical demands of running the football. But Thompson added 15 pounds in the offseason.
He has rushed for 18 touchdowns this season, and that’s been perhaps the most vital part of Fort Osage’s last two playoff victories. He ran for three scores in each game.
The clutch performances, so to speak, are no coincidence. Fort Osage has lost only three games in Thompson’s three years as a starter, but two of them came in heartbreaking fashion in the postseason.
“All that has stuck with him. He has a very good memory,” Schartz said. “And when he loses, he tries to figure out what he can do to change that.”
So far, he has.
Fort Osage is in the state championship game for the third time in its history. Thompson was there for each of the previous two. He was a ball boy when the Indians made it in 2009. As a freshman, he was the backup quarterback when they made it again in 2012. Both were losses.
“I remember going out in warmups in 2012, and I just sat there and looked around and absorbed it all,” Thompson said. “I knew I probably wouldn’t play that day, but I thought it was so cool just to warm up on the NFL field.
“It’s going to be even better now that I’m the one playing.”