Growing up in Rochester in the ‘70s, Darrell Thompson’s parents, George and Morsie, were active in the community and their home was a welcome place for friends to gather. It wasn’t until early elementary school that young Thompson realized he was different. Not very many of his classmates looked like him because he was one of only a handful of Black children in his class.

While there were negative people that said some hurtful and negative things, Thompson’s parents were very proud, very educated, and very spiritual people who taught him that Black is beautiful, their heritage is beautiful, and their people are beautiful.

Although his parents were athletic, sports were not the most important or even the most talked about in his family. He and his two younger siblings were expected to give their best effort and make education a priority. Being good at sports did not get him a pass when report cards were sent home.

Thompson often felt held back in Rochester and appreciated the colleges he visited where more people looked like him-and not just on the football team. When he decided to play for Lou Holtz and the Gophers, he had no idea that he would be a first-round draft pick for the Green Bay Packers. What he did know was that he wanted to be in a city where he fit in and where there would be business opportunities. Minneapolis fit the bill and had everything he needed right there.

A few years ago Thompson went to Mississippi to visit his mom and had the opportunity to attend one of his nephew’s 8th-grade football games. Although he had played college and professional football against some great SEC players, he was in for a culture shock when he saw that the 8th-grade games were played at night, under the lights, with cheerleaders, concessions, and fans. He never played in front of anyone other than a few parents in 8th grade and there were no cheerleaders.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

Listen in as Thompson compares Minnesota’s football program with Alabama’s, shares how his opinion of the Green Bay Packers and their fans changed over time and highlights some of his favorite football players in this week’s episode of The Other Side of the Table, Season 2, episode #3 Darrell Thompson.