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Keegan Thompson is an American professional soccer player for Chicago House AC of the National Independent Soccer Association (NISA), the 3rd division of US Soccer. Thompson, a craffy, goalscoring player, is a Wisconsin native and attended Elmhurst University where he was a star player. Following his collegiate career, Thompson played for Forward Madison before signing his first professional contract with Chicago House AC in the NISA, becoming one of the teams first signings.
Founder, The Sports Court
The Keegan Thompson Interview
1) Growing up in Madison, Wisconsin, what was your youth career like?
So I was born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin. I've always loved being outdoors and playing all sorts of sports from the moment I could walk! I started playing soccer when I was very young, with my local neighborhood team! We all played because we had a blast and enjoyed the game! I also played after school with my friends. We'd play until the sun went down with big smiles on our faces!
I played for Madison 56ers then my highschool Madison West. Another big part of my development was playing futsal and indoor soccer during those snowy Wisconsin winters!
2)How’d you get recruited by Elmhurst University?
I got recruited by Coach Dave Ditomasso and Elmhurst University at a ODP Region 2 camp then I attended their college ID camp! While I had other offers from D1 and D3, the professionalism that Coach DiTomasso had stood out to me right away. I knew this Coach could help me succeed on the field and in the classroom and help me get to the next level. Elmhurst University was a perfect spot for me to grow, learn and perfect my game!
3) What’s the biggest difference you noticed in the level of play when you transitioned from HS to college ball?
The biggest thing I noticed was the speed of play and consistency. At each level you move up, the players get better, more consistent and stronger and faster. You have to think faster, know what you're going to do before receiving the ball and then execute.
4) A big part that people often forget is the word ‘student’ in the term student-athlete. You didn’t neglect the student term and finished with 4 all conference academic honors. How did you balance academics and athletics?
Both of my parents were Division 1 cross country runners and continued after college, they too were very good in the classroom. So from a young age, they encouraged and gave me a platform where athletes and academics went hand in hand. While sports are a big part of our lives, you need balance. Having an idea of what happens when you're done playing is crucial. And excelling in the classroom will translate to on field success. I studied Chemistry in undergrad, so with labs and classes I had to learn and perfect my time management. This just made me more driven and helped me increase my soccer IQ!
5) In 2017, your junior year, you missed the season with an injury. What did you learn about yourself while sitting on the sidelines?
Missing my junior year and being out of the game for 15 months with 2 pelvic stress fractures was one of the hardest things I've had happen to me. There were some really dark days when I didn't want to do anything. Having something like soccer or work ripped away from you can be incredibly crushing. That's where having a fantastic support group of coaches, family, friends and teammates helps so much! While the actual injury was awful, it helped me realize that I wanted to play soccer at the highest level and for as long as I can! Moreover, that season I had to become a leader for the team. I stepped back and learned. How can I get the most out of my teammates? How can I encourage them yet hold them accountable? This year helped me become a 2 year captain for Elmhurst!
6)Your senior year you had an all-time great season, banging 4 goals, 3 assists, and leading the team in assists. Can you describe that season and what it meant for you to have a bounce back year after being injured?
My senior year, after coming back from injury, was great. I was elated to train, lift and be back playing the game I love. It was a season where we all had ups and downs. After missing 15 months, I had to be careful to manage my workload and not have anything else happen. But with something to build on it was a great precursor to my 5th year.
7) In your fifth year, you had another amazing season, with 8 goals and 7 assists, capping off an amazing college career. Overall, what’s your favorite collegiate soccer memory?
This year was so fun. We had all worked so hard that off-season, myself and the other leaders on the team worked so hard on and off the field and to see it all come together that season was a great feeling. My highlight of that season was beating our cross town rivals Wheaton College 4-2. We followed the game plan to a T. Everyone performed so well and I scored 2 really nice goals.
8) While in college, you also played for the Madison 56ers & Milwaukee Bavarians. How was your experience with the 56ers and Bavarians?
Both of my experiences with Milwaukee Bavarians(a top 10 amateur team in the country) and Madison 56ers helped me grow as a player. Here I played against top amateur teams and trained on a daily basis with quality guys( division 1,2,3 and even ex pros). These summer experiences helped me continue to improve and play at a higher level!
9) After college, you spent time with Forward Madison FC. Two questions, one) how amazing are the iconic FMFC kits in person and two) I asked about your step up from HS to college, how was your step up from college to the professional level?
The jump from college to pro was a big one. However, I think it was less big than highschool to college for me. I had grown a lot and gotten stronger. However, what I did notice was I was no longer the fastest and quickest guy on the field. More guys could keep up with me. And that's actually what encouraged me in the offseasons to keep doing drills and lifts that make me faster and more explosive! The biggest thing I noticed was professionals play two and three touch so much more than college. The ball is moved very quickly, and then when you get a chance to do a move or finish, completing that is expected. It's a cutthroat business, it's a livelihood. A different type of pressure. Now that being said, everything I do I want to have fun! That helps me, and makes the whole journey more enjoyable and positive! If you're going to do something, love it! Love what you do and I'm so thankful I love what I do.
10) You recently signed your first pro contract with NISA club, Chicago House AC. What does it mean for you to sign a contract and get the chance to call Seatgeek Stadium your home?
This is an amazing opportunity and I'm so excited to sign with Chicago House AC! I remember driving down to Madison to watch games at Seatgeek so to be able to play in this historic stadium is fulfilling every dream of mine! And to play for a Chicago Fire legend, Coach CJ Brown, is truly amazing. His knowledge, determination and mindset fit with mine and it's a perfect environment to grow and succeed!
11) What are your personal goals for this upcoming season?
My personal goals for this season are to have fun, win games, score goals, have assists and have a positive impact on Chicago! Yes, 10 goals is the aim, but it's bigger than that. If we win games, win NISA and can inspire soccer's next generation that's really what it's about. I have Celiac disease (my body cannot digest gluten) and I see Drew Bree who also has Celiac and think why not me? I hope to be a role model for other Celiac's as well.
12) Favorite European club?
Arsenal FC! I've been fortunate to see them play live 3 times!!!
13) Who’s your biggest role model and why?
My role model is Cristiano Ronaldo. His story on where he came from to where he is now is so special. He is a product of hard work and talent. I admire how he's still crushing it at 36! It goes to show what you can do when you completely embrace your job as a footballer. He takes fantastic care of his body, proper nutrition, sleep and recovery. He's a total competitor, great leader and plays with so much joy! His step overs are a move that he inspired me to perfect.
14) Go to snack on the road?
Peanut butter jelly! I will go for breakfast, snacks and a meal!
15) What’s the biggest misconception about being a pro athlete?
The biggest misconception about being a professional soccer player is the sacrifice it takes. I've turned down friends or fun trips because I've had a lift, train or a game. Everything you do, has to be in line with your goal. Whether it's signing that first contract, getting into the starting 11 or moving up the ranks. Each day, your day revolves around soccer. As Tom Brady says, "what are you willing to sacrifice to be great". That's perfect, because it takes so much more than people think. Are you training every day? How serious are the sessions? What do your meals and recovery look like?
Consistency and drive go so far and are what you need to be a pro.
16)In three words, describe yourself?
Describing myself in 3 words would be Persistent, motivated and joyful!
17) Any last words for the readers?
Have fun with whatever you do! Life is too short to not enjoy it. Whether it's school, your job, a hobby, have fun! If you have a smile on your face and you're doing it right and good things will happen!
Big thank you to Keegan for the amazing interview, becoming one of the few pro players with Celiac is amazing, and Keegan is doing huge things. Best of luck with your future, can't wait to watch some House games this season!
A huge sports fan who loves to learn about all sports, from every corner of the world!