MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — In some ways, it feels like Darwin Thompson was in and out of Logan in a flash.

The junior college All-America transfer arrived at Utah State in 2018, sped his way to a 1,000-yard rushing season and rolled up 16 touchdowns — fourth-most in a single season in Aggie history.

And then the Tulsa, Oklahoma, native was gone, declaring for the NFL draft following his junior season. It’s worked out well, though, as Thompson was selected by the Kansas City Chiefs in the sixth round of last April’s draft.

“How could you doubt me when you don’t know what God has instilled within me? I believe God and me walk hand in hand; you doubt me, you doubt God. To be in this position is a blessing.” — Kansas City running back Darwin Thompson

“It’s crazy to think, play one year of Division I football — a lot of people go four years, three years, two years, whatever it may be — and they don’t get the chance to get drafted. That’s where I believe it was just a part of God’s plan to leave school and follow my heart,” Thompson said. “That’s the biggest thing, just following your heart.”

The next stop for the 22-year-old during a whirlwind part of his life? Super Bowl LIV at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, where the Chiefs will face the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday (4:30 p.m. MST, TV: Fox) for the NFL championship.

“A lot of people can give their perspective but they don’t know what God has instilled in you. That’s why I never understood the word doubt. How could you doubt me when you don’t know what God has instilled within me? I believe God and me walk hand in hand; you doubt me, you doubt God. To be in this position is a blessing,” Thompson said.

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Rookie season

Thompson has spent his rookie year as the team’s third option at running back and working a lot on special teams. After picking up just five carries through the first three months of the regular season, Thompson saw his offensive role increase in December and finished his rookie year with 37 carries for 128 yards, topped by a 11-carry, 44 yard-effort in a 40-9 win over Oakland on Dec. 1, 2019, that included Thompson’s first career touchdown. He also had 10 receptions for 43 yards.

Kansas City Chiefs running back Darwin Thompson (34) celebrates his touchdown with teammates including tight end Travis Kelce (87) during the second half of an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019. | Charlie Riedel, Associated Press

Touches come at a premium in the Chiefs offense, led by reigning NFL MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes, dynamic tight end Travis Kelce and speedster Tyreek Hill.

“I averaged 12 carries per game in college, from junior college to Utah State. My pops always told me, you only need five carries to show what you can do. Within those five carries, you can either run the ball or you can’t run the ball,” Thompson said. “Playing in this offense, they do let me run the ball enough — if you had Patrick Mahomes, baby, what would you do? This is a perfect offense for me, they’ve got Patrick Mahomes opening up the running lanes. He’s a better athlete than most athletes on the other side of the ball.”

Playoff run

One of Thompson’s more memorable plays this year came in the Chiefs’ playoff game against Houston, when he scooped up a fumble forced by teammate Daniel Sorensen, a former BYU standout, on a kickoff return and returned the fumble 18 yards to the Texans 6-yard line. That led to a touchdown three plays later, as Kansas City rallied from down 24-0 to win 51-31.

“There was a guy in front of me, and everyone kinda stopped in shock. I was like, ‘Can I advance this?’ So when I knew that I could, it was time to go,” Thompson said. “For that split moment, I thought for one second, can I do this? And then boom, I just go. I tried to tell my younger brother, this game is so fast. You think while you play football now. I try to explain to a lot of younger guys, you just think on the run.”

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This will be the third time in four years a former Utah State player has reached the Super Bowl, including wide receiver/returner JoJo Natson with the Los Angeles Rams last year and tight end D.J. Tialavea in 2017 with Atlanta.

The last time a former Aggie won a Super Bowl title was six years ago, when Bobby Wagner and Robert Turbin earned rings with Seattle in the Seahawks’ 43-8 victory over Denver in Super Bowl XLVIII. The next year, Wagner and Turbin returned to the Super Bowl with Seattle, but came up short in a 28-24 loss to New England.

Experienced running back room

Thompson has a solid support system in the Chiefs’ by-committee running back room, which includes 11-year veteran LeSean McCoy, six-year pro Damien Williams and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, a former college back at Colorado who played nine years in the NFL.

“The standard’s set high, because that’s how we wanted it. Being in the NFL, you should want the standard set high. You should never be content, the Mamba mentality. You should always want more, and that’s what coach Bieniemy wants,” Thompson said. “He strives for perfection, and he makes sure he gets that out of you. He wouldn’t be the great coach that he is if it wasn’t for that. He deserves to be an NFL coach someday somewhere.”

“He’s a hard runner, and he wants to be great. You can see it in him.” — Kansas City running back Damien Williams, on Darwin Thompson

Williams, the team’s leading rusher who’s scored three touchdowns in Kansas City’s playoff run, sees in Thompson a young player who wants to learn.

“He’s a hard runner, and he wants to be great. You can see it in him. He’s always asking questions. As vets in the room, we’re always giving people a hard time when they’re asking questions. But he wants to learn the game, he wants to understand why we’re doing this, or why they say this and do that,” Williams said. “He wants to learn, and as a young kid in the NFL, those are the type of questions you should ask. I’m just happy to be the vet in this room to give him some type of leadership.”

McCoy also provides Thompson a sounding board, not just in football but in life, from someone he watched growing up.  

“He’s taught me more off the field than on the field. A lot of people have a lot of things to say about Shady. I’ll tell you this, Shady is about the young guys ... What kind of person are you? Who are you? Sometimes we go at it, like, man, what’s wrong with you? And I’m like, Shady, I’m learning just as you learning,” Thompson said.

“That’s where you see the Hall of Famer in him, because he’s able to do that. He’s gone from playing and starting his entire career, and now he’s here to teach the young guys. He’s accepted that role. Shady is a high-class guy.”

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McCoy, like Thompson, is searching for his first Super Bowl ring. He’s a six-time Pro Bowler who led the NFL in rushing yards in 2013, and in rushing touchdowns two years before that. Earning a ring, though, would top it off.

“There are some great players that have played this game, in all sports, and haven’t won a championship. I look back at my career, I’ve got some good stuff to be proud about, but one of the things I would really be proud about is saying Super Bowl champion, putting that on my legacy,” he said.

Thompson, too, is keeping the rare opportunity of reaching the NFL title game in perspective.

“We’ve got a young team. This is a great opportunity for us to be in this position. A lot of guys don’t reach the Super Bowl,” he said.

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