Gerald Brown, who was the Hoosiers’ running backs coach for six seasons, believed Thigpen had the potential to turn professional when he recruited the Detroit native out of Mumford High School.
“He was an explosive running back, and he was also the state champion in track,” said Brown, now the Atlanta Falcons’ running backs coach, in an e-mail. “He is an explosive runner, has outstanding speed and did a really good job for us.”
Still, Thigpen wasn’t used to his full potential in an offense lost in transition. He might have been the first Hoosier to boast 1,000 rushing, receiving and kickoff return yards.
But the versatile athlete only averaged 7.8 carries per game and netted a meager seven rushing touchdowns in his senior season – arguably the most important time to showcase talent for scouts.
Thigpen’s chances of being drafted were improbable.
The odds seemed impossible.
However, his TV was still on, loud and clear.
“I was hopeful someone would pick me up in the seventh round, but that didn’t happen,” Thigpen said in a phone interview. “I wasn’t devastated, but I stayed positive, praying some team would call.”
Five minutes later, one did.
The New York Giants reached out to him first.
The only problem was Thigpen didn’t have cell phone service at the time, and the call, probably the most life-changing moment he’ll ever experience, went straight to voicemail.
“I couldn’t call the Giants back because I didn’t have a number for them,” Thigpen said.
In typical fashion, New York’s NFC East rival, the Philadelphia Eagles, attempted to swipe a player the Giants’ organization was targeting.
Just minutes after Thigpen missed the call and his phone restored some juice, the Eagles asked him if he had signed with another team yet.
“I told them no,” Thigpen said. “They wanted me as a slot receiver and a kick returner. Basically, I was happy.”
Along with eight other players, Thigpen signed an undrafted free agent contract with the Eagles, a team that carries mediocre wide receivers and a lackluster special teams unit.
He believes if it wasn’t for that missed call, he would most likely be in the New York, not Philadelphia, papers by now.
Back in Bloomington, his former coach is pleased to hear one of his former players signed with an NFL team.
“We are proud of Marcus and pleased he received this opportunity,” IU coach Bill Lynch said in a press release. “He made a tremendous impact on our program and has a bright future ahead of him.”
Thigpen said he understands most undrafted free agents don’t make the 53-man roster.
He admitted whether it’s the practice squad or the roster, he’ll be glad just to call football his everyday occupation.
“I’ve heard all the critiques before,” Thigpen said. “The odds are against me like they were in the draft. Hopefully, I’ll prove that I belong in the NFL.”
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