Elon QB focuses on faith after severe neurological issue


In the days leading up to Elon’s season opener at Wake Forest on Sept. 3, Daniel Thompson was experiencing head pain. He thought it was nothing more than a migraine, perhaps resulting from nervousness leading up to his collegiate debut.

When the symptoms persisted the following week, and included bouts of vertigo and blurred vision, the freshman quarterback knew he had to get things checked out.

Elon-New-Hampshire“I thought of everything from allergies to a virus,” he said. “I had no idea what it was and I thought it would go away. I was taking Ibuprofen and stuff like that. It ended up being something a little more severe and I am glad we found out what it was so we could take the necessary steps to get it right.”

It certainly was something more severe. Never could Thompson have imagined that he was dealing with a neurological condition called spontaneous cerebrospinal fluid leak that resulted from fluid on his brain. The thought of hearing something like that is enough to make one pause.

“As I soon as I heard (the diagnosis) I did not think it would ever be something serious like that,” he said. “I was glad we found out what it was before I really could have hurt myself. I was a little disappointed I was sidelined because this is my first season at college, but I was definitely happy that I found out what it was and that we were able to take the steps that we needed to make sure that I was back and healthy.”

Fortunately all Thompson had to do was take it easy. He had to refrain from most activity with rest and time serving as the best healers, much like overcoming a concussion. After going 6-of-14 for 44 yards with no turnovers in the loss at Wake Forest, Thompson was sidelined for the Phoenix’s last three games. He will be ready to play this week.

What happened to him was something that can happen at any time. The fluid that protects the brain can leak onto it without provocation resulting in the symptoms he experienced. The 19-year-old relied on his faith, family and the spiritual lyrics of “It is Well” to get through the ordeal.

“I think that was the biggest reason I was able to make it through this troubling time,” said Thompson, who plans to enter the seminary and pursue a career in the ministry. “My parents and I have strong faith and we knew God had it in his hands. It made it a lot easier to go through all of that.”

A healthy Thompson could be under center at some point during Saturday’s game at New Hampshire. Elon, which is in its second season as a Colonial Athletic Association member, enters 2-2 and captured it’s first-ever CAA win last week against visiting Towson. The Wildcats are 2-2 overall, 0-1 in the CAA.

“I need to be ready if my number is called,” Thompson said. “I just want to do anything to help the team get better. If that means being the biggest cheerleader on the sidelines then that is what I will do. As long as we win.”

If he does get into the game Thompson, who enrolled early, will likely hear from his brother at some point. Dylan was the starting quarterback under Steve Spurrier at South Carolina last season and is currently on the San Francisco 49ers’ practice squad.

Thompson said his older sibling has provided much advice with perhaps the most important message being that a quarterback is much more than a leader on the field.

“He has been a tremendous help and I do not think I would be where I am without him,” he said. “He has really showed me a lot from a leadership standpoint, what your team needs and what your teammates need and to be there for them at any time of day, any time of night. That is your job as a quarterback and as a friend. I think the biggest thing is to let them know you care about them outside of football. If there is anything important you can come to me and confide in me.”

After what he went through Thompson would likely disseminate the proper message.

Above: Elon freshman QB Daniel Thompson credits his family and his faith with helping him deal with a brain disorder. (Courtesy Elon Sports Information)
Tom Layberger

Tom Layberger

Tom Layberger is a freelance writer based in Glen Mills, Pa.