Can QB Alex Thomson go from tiny Wagner to the NFL? Phil Simms thinks so

Pete Thamel
<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/ncaaf/players/254199/" data-ylk="slk:Alex Thomson">Alex Thomson</a> has all the tools to be an NFL quarterback, according to Phil Simms. (Courtesy of Wagner)
Alex Thomson has all the tools to be an NFL quarterback, according to Phil Simms. (Courtesy of Wagner)

As a high school senior in New Jersey, Alex Thomson was such a lightly regarded quarterback prospect that his only local recognition came as third-team All-Shore punter by his local newspaper, the Asbury Park Press. He took two college visits, as the market for a Wing T quarterback isn’t vast, and ultimately walked on at Wagner after receiving an academic scholarship.

Four years later, Thomson has emerged as the most intriguing graduate transfer quarterback in college football. He grew into a 6-foot-5, 225-pound frame and is regarded in high-end quarterbacking circles as an NFL prospect.

Thomson will graduate from Wagner, an FCS school on Staten Island, this spring and expects to have two years of college eligibility remaining. He’ll be immediately eligible for the 2018 season. He received his release from Wagner last week, and schools with initial interest in him include Tennessee, FIU, Iowa State and Oregon State.

Thomson, 21, has two high-profile advocates who’ll vouch for his talent.

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Thomson began working out with former NFL star Phil Simms in the offseason last year, and Simms told Yahoo Sports on Tuesday that Thomson has all the tools necessary for a smooth transition up from the FCS level.

“He can play at any level,” Simms said. “There’s no question. If things fall right [with his college situation], I definitely think he’s a pro prospect. I don’t even have to hesitate to say that.”

Thomson is a pro-style quarterback with an arm that Simms calls “powerful.” He broke out in 2016 with 16 touchdowns, 2,436 yards and just five interceptions. He only played in the first two games of this season because of a shoulder injury. His former offensive coordinator at Wagner, Rich Scangarello, is the current quarterbacks coach for the San Francisco 49ers. He’s just as resolute in his view of Thomson’s talent and future.

“I think he’s an NFL quarterback,” Scangarello said. “I have no doubt about it. He’s athletic, smart and tough, and he’s just scratching the surface as a player. He’s as good as the back-up quarterbacks in the NFL right now. I really believe that. He’s legit.”

Word has begun to trickle through college circles about Thomson’s potential. He said that he’s spoken to Tennessee offensive coordinator Tyson Helton and the Vols have offered a blueshirt. (Essentially, that means he can’t go on paid official visits and is awarded a scholarship on the first day of camp, which counts toward the following year’s recruiting class.)

Thomson hasn’t set a timeline for the school decision, but is eager to go through a recruiting process that eluded him while at Keyport (N.J.) High School and is taking an official visit to FIU in two weeks. Other schools have reached out for film or inquired about him through third parties.

“It’s really weird,” he said. “I’m taking an official visit. I think it’s the coolest thing. My only recruiting trips in high school were to East Stroudsburg and Wagner.”

He ultimately chose Wagner because of location, as he planned to major in finance and wanted to be closer to New York City. Thomson said he has a 3.55 GPA and will graduate in this spring. Thomson expects two years of eligibility because he missed his freshman season with a PCL injury and was told by Wagner officials he had a high chance of receiving a waiver for a sixth year.

Thomson earned a football scholarship his redshirt sophomore year. (He walked-on as a quarterback, but was asked if he could play tight end if that didn’t work out.) He thrived at Wagner under Scangarello, who shifted the offense from a spread-based veer to a pro-style system. What makes Thomson unique is that he’s a drop-back quarterback with the athleticism to run.

“He’s a very quick processor, he’s accurate and has big-time arm talent,” Scangarello said. “He runs in the 4.7s and he’s as tough as they come. He just stands in there and doesn’t flinch. He’s not afraid of the moment.”

Thomson plans on working out with Simms again this spring, and Simms expects another jump in his performance. He plans to hone in on footwork and build on what he taught him last year. “He’s a thrower right now,” Simms said. “He will be a thrower and a passer by June, or whenever he has to go to school.”

With word just starting to filter out about Thomson, both Simms and Scangarello are bullish on his prospects leaping up a level.

“If I was the offensive coordinator at Alabama, I’d want him to be my quarterback,” Scangarello said. “I’d take him anywhere. I’m going to draft the guy someday. He’s legit. He can play anywhere.”

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