RUSSELL WILSON and JACK THOMPSON and the name game
The Department of History routinely produces graduates poised to make names for themselves in the wider world—and a few actually enter college with a bit of a head start.
Take, for example, Russell Wilson and Jack Thompson. (Seriously, what are the odds of finding the names of not just one but two nationally prominent quarterbacks on the Department of History’s student roster?)
Russell Carrington Wilson is the current Seattle Seahawks quarterback who led his team to victory in Super Bowl XLVIII. And Jack Byron Thompson, the “Throwin’ Samoan,” piloted the WSU football team from 1976 to 1978, and was drafted third overall by the Cincinnati Bengals in 1979.
At WSU today, Russell Turner Wilson is a History/English education major born on the fourth of July, 1996. And while he shares names with the Super Bowl-winning Seahawks quarterback, his was handed down, not from the sidelines but from his great-grandfather. Nevertheless, such a recognizable moniker has lent itself to periodic head-scratching double takes.
“It’s really more like comments,” Wilson said. “It’s like at the beginning of a class, when you have a group project assigned and they pass around the sign-up sheet. I remember one time a guy next to me tapped me on the arm and said, ‘Hey look, we have Russell Wilson in our group!’ I said, ‘Yeah, I know—it’s me.’”
Meanwhile, Wilson’s classmate Jack Rhoades Thompson found his way to WSU cheerfully but partly because of a bad break. The Vancouver, Washington, native, who played defensive end in high school, broke his right ankle during his junior year executing a front flip while cheerleading. One plate, seven screws, and his football career over, Thompson enrolled at WSU as a History/Social Studies Education major after trying out and making the WSU Cheer team.
“Cheer got me to WSU,” he said. “If I didn’t make the team I was going to join the army. I figured if I made the team maybe it was a sign that I should go the school route.” Four years later, the 22-year-old is finishing up his career as a Cougar cheerleader and preparing to student teach in the fall.
Thompson, who was named for his father, who was named for his father, who, in turn, was named for his father, and so on, is “actually the sixth Jack Thompson in the family. But all of us have different middle names.” Thanks to his cheer opportunities, Jack VI on one occasion met the “real” former WSU quarterback at a “Night with Cougar Football” event in February 2015. “He was most gracious to pose for a photo,” Jack VI said.
And as for his famous Cougar football name? “I probably get comments twice a year or so,” he said. ”It’s getting to the point where his name is a little less well known.”
Wilson fell in love with WSU when he visited campus while in high school. “I was called ‘Rusty’ in high school,” he said, “but I became Russell when I got here. Russell sounds more professional.” “Rusty,” who hails from Jerome, Idaho, ultimately matriculated across the state border and initially enrolled at WSU as a Psychology major.
“I’m really happy I made the switch from Psych to History Education,” he said. “I took a History 101 course with Dr. [Shawna] Herzog, and I decided to switch. She really made all the difference.”
Likewise, Thompson hopes to combine his love of history and cheerleading to find a teaching a job and one day become a high school administrator. “I’m way more qualified to coach cheer than football,” he said, “but my mom’s a Coug and a teacher, so I know what I’m getting into. Now it’s just a case of passing all of my classes.”
As determined as their namesakes to keep their eyes on the ball, these two history quarterbacks should find “passing” their classes a relatively easy task.
Kevin Schilling, CAS Outstanding Senior Award (History), WSU Top 10 Senior award (for community service), and President’s LEAD Award (History)
Anna Cole, CAS Outstanding Senior Award (Asia Studies)
Gabriela Olivas, President’s LEAD Award (Asia Studies)
Casey McNicholas, Josiah Skogen, Claire Thornton, and Jay Willoughby – Phi Beta Kappa (national liberal arts and sciences honor society) scholars
Ian Reilly – Phi Alpha Theta (national history honor society) scholar.
CAS Global Case Competition
Madeleine Hunter led her CAS Global Case Competition team to first place in April 2016. Advised by Dr. Ken Faunce of the Department of History, Hunter and her team examined the growing number of Americans incarcerated for debt. Faunce, Hunter, and the team traveled to Geneva, Switzerland, in November to present their findings to United Nations dignitaries.
History major Jordan Frost was elected president of the ASWSU in March 2017. Frost is the first non-Greek ASWSU president since 2008 and the first African-American president elected since 2009.