Russell Thompson has been named the new head football coach at Cisco College, according to athletic director Ryan Johnson. Thompson comes to Cisco from Tyler Junior College, where he has served as assistant football coach for six seasons.
“Coach Thompson brings a wealth of experience in junior college football, particularly the Southwest Junior College Football conference,” Johnson said. “I am impressed with his philosophy of the complete student athlete and how it translates to success in the classroom and on the field. Coach Thompson is a proven coach, recruiter and mentor. We are excited to have him lead our football program.”
Thompson said that his vision for the college’s football team is to develop young men to be better citizens. But “there’s no question” that equally important is his goal “to get this program back to where it once was, and that’s to be competitive,” he said.
“There’s no crystal ball that will dictate the future of whether you’re going to be successful on the field or not, but I know Cisco College has a history of being great, and that’s what I envision.
I envision getting good kids out here, that meet what Cisco has to offer, that fit in well with the Cisco community, but win championships. We want to come out here and start competing.”
Thompson said that every coach has different visions, “but I know this, if you get the right kids out here, and you work hard—we’re not building rocket ships, and we’re not reinventing the wheel–it takes hard work and it takes dedication from your athletes and your coaching staff, the community, the college.”
He said he chose to come to Cisco College because it has been a fierce competitor to teams he coached in the past. “In the ‘80s and ‘90s, I remember Cisco Wrangler teams coming over to East Texas, whether it was Tyler Junior College or wherever, and competing and winning those games.”
“But this place is a very, very special place. It has always in my mind been a gold mine. I think you could come out here and be very, very successful. You’ve got to work hard when you come out here, but that’s anywhere.”
He stated that when he was coaching at Garden City, Kansas, he had many players that went on to Nebraska or Oklahoma. “We had a lot of big time Division I football players; this was in ’05 . . . but we came down here and we got our butt kicked by Cisco Junior College.”
“I remember in ’07, when I was at Kilgore College, we had won the regular season championship, with one game left. We had come out to Cisco, to win and go in with a perfect regular season. But we lost. It came out Cisco beat us. Good teams, but you can win out here. This, I promise you, is a gold mine. It’s a great opportunity, there’s no question.”
Coach Thompson sees sports as helping young men to develop their work ethic, and to developing their sense of loyalty, not only to their school but also toward their family. “In today’s society, when you’ve got single moms, single dads, it very important to me what being involved in athletics can do for young men and young women.”
“I’ve been very fortunate,” he said. “Whenever I started coaching, I’ve been around some great head coaches; I’ve been around some great assistant coaches. I was raised right. I come from a divorced family, but my father stayed in my life, and helped raise me and my two brothers. My dad was a prison guard. My mother was a secretary for a lumber company. So hard work was all we knew. And without an education, without coaches snatching me up and making me go to class, making me do what I’m supposed to do, I wouldn’t be sitting here giving this interview to you.”
As for athletes’ academic performance, he said, “Football is short-lived. It does not last forever,” he said. “A very, very small percentage go to the NFL. Even if you go to the NFL, without an education, when your money runs out, you have nothing to fall back on, and you’ve got little kids that depend on you, to provide as a father – it’s difficult out in the real world without an education.”
Thompson said he loves the small-town atmosphere of Cisco. “I grew up in Jacksonville, Texas. Jacksonville now is a town of about 13,000, but when I was there it was a town probably of about 10,000. I grew up out in the country, so I grew up hunting and fishing, in a small-town atmosphere, so I’m right at home here.”
In addition to fishing and hunting, “more than anything, I love raising my little girl, Rebecca. She’s 10 years old. And my wife has been tremendous; we’ve been married 20 years.” His wife Susan, who is an accountant, has always been willing to pack up and move to follow his career. He said they are excited to raise their daughter “in a great town, with a great school district, the Cisco ISD.” He loves the slower pace of Cisco. “That’s how I was raised. And to be able to raise my daughter in an environment like that is the world to me.”
Thompson began his coaching career in 1997-1998 at East Central University in Ada, Okla., where he graduated. In 1999, he coached at Sulphur High School in Sulphur, Okla., for “probably one of the best head coaches I’ve ever coached for. His name was Jim Dixon. He’s still coaching, but he’s already in the Oklahoma High School Coaching Hall of Fame. Great guy. He meant the world to me.”
From Sulphur he went to Kilgore College from 2000 to 2003. In 2004, while earning his master’s degree, he coached at West Texas A&M University. He then coached at Garden City Community College in Kansas 2005-2006. He returned to Kilgore Junior College again from 2007-2010. From 2011 to the present, he has been coaching football at Tyler Junior College, until now assuming his duties as head coach at Cisco College.