McLeod Bethel-Thompson has made his way back to the Bay Area this year after winning a roster spot on the Arena Football League’s San Jose SaberCats. It’s been quite the journey for Bethel-Thompson, as he’s bounced around California before finally landing the backup gig behind veteran quarterback Mark Grieb.
The 22-year-old saw his first extensive action of the season during a 70-57 loss to the Dallas Vigilantes last week after Grieb was injured. Bethel-Thompson completed 12 of 26 passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns.
“I heard through a mutual friend about the tryouts to the SaberCats, and so I started coming down and practicing, which led to me getting invited to camp,” Bethel-Thompson said. “[San Jose] wanted me to compete with [former Cal QB] Nate Longshore, and I beat him out. I’m thankful for the opportunity to continue to play football.”
Bethel-Thompson was a star quarterback in San Francisco at Balboa High School from 2003-05, earning Academic Athletic Association Player of the Year honors as a senior, throwing for 2,100 yards along with 22 touchdowns and only six interceptions.
By the end of his senior year, Bethel-Thompson had plenty of colleges looking at him, but he chose to take his talents to UCLA, where he walked on and made the roster.
Coming from the financially deprived public school system in San Francisco, where attendance at sporting events can be meager, to attending a prestigious university such as UCLA, where the exposure and attention is on another stratosphere, was quite a change for Bethel-Thompson.
“It was a total cultural shock, sports shock,” Bethel-Thompson said.
That experience for Bethel-Thompson was short-lived, however. After seeing some action as a redshirt freshman, the Bruins’ program was in flux. With new coach Rick Neuheisel set to take the reins over from fired head coach Karl Dorrell, uncertainty started to hit Bethel-Thompson. He had a couple failed meetings with Neuheisel and wound up feeling unwanted.
Bethel-Thompson made the decision to leave UCLA for Sacramento State.
“I felt like it was the right decision,” Bethel-Thompson said.
The Sacramento State experience didn’t go as planned as season-ending injuries derailed his sophomore and senior seasons. In his senior season, he injured his ankle in the first game of the season against Stanford, which hurt his chance at potentially getting drafted in the NFL. The unpredictable road to the SaberCats hasn’t limited Bethel-Thompson in other areas of life, as the history major also minored in government, thus leading to an eight-month internship at the State Capitol as a legislative assistant.
“Government is an interest of mine and I try to pay attention to what’s going on around the world, and not just football,” Bethel-Thompson said.
HEIGHT-WEIGHT: 6-foot-4, 230 pounds
HIGH SCHOOL: Balboa
COLLEGE: UCLA, Sacramento State
NOTES: Currently is backup quarterback for San Jose SaberCats. ... Completed 12 of 26 passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns in relief of injured Mark Grieb last week. ... Plans to attend law school after football career is over.