The Mira Mesa community is grieving after learning of Mira Mesa High School football team’s beloved head coach Chris Thompson’s death from natural causes Saturday at the age of 53.
Dozens of posts flooded social media platforms as the news of his passing spread. Former players, fellow staff and members of the community paid tribute to Thompson, sharing stories of his coaching career and unique style. They said he lived by the motto ‘one family, one purpose.’
Thompson wrote about that purpose on his Facebook page in 2011 – saying it’ll always be to “make his players the best sons, brothers, husbands, fathers and men that they can be.”
Los Angeles Avengers wide receiver J.R. Tolver is one of those players – first meeting Thompson in 1994 as a 14-year-old Mira Mesa High School freshman.
“He was always hard on me…and I kind of didn't like him,” Tolver recalled with a laugh. “But I realized long after it was because he saw something in me. He was there not only to make us great football players, but to make us great men.”
He’s one of about a dozen players Thompson coached that would go on to play professionally.
“I had the privilege of playing at the highest level -- playing for Hall of Fame NFL coaches -- and I'll tell you his football mind was as good as any football mind I've ever been around,” Tolver said. “He could have been an NFL coach, but his passion, his purpose was really behind making an impact on high school football players.”
In a statement released Saturday, Mira Mesa High School Principal Jeff Sabins called the coach of over 30 years “an amazing leader, an inspirational football coach, and an even better man who truly believed in his players…”
“Everybody in this community knows and respects the amount of love and passion and work and energy that Coach Chris Thompson put into the Mira Mesa community during his time with us,” Tolver said.
Thompson moved to Mira Mesa in 1978 and graduated from Mira Mesa High School in 1986. He began coaching junior varsity football there in 1988 – the beginning of what would become a 35-year coaching career.
His hands-on coaching style brought success to Vista, Poway and Bonita Vista High School’s football programs before the coach returned to the Mira Mesa High School family in 2018 as head coach.
That’s where Tolver said his coach’s purpose was fulfilled.
“God knew what he was doing when he brought Coach Thompson back to Mira Mesa High School,” he said. “He knew exactly what he was doing to take him from us, and he put him in a position to give us -- to give this community -- everything that Coach Thompson wanted to give it. I'm going to miss Coach Thompson like crazy. He's one of my best friends, but I couldn't be more proud of what he was able to accomplish.”
Tolver told NBC 7 he’s just one of thousands of people made better by Coach Thompson.
Thompson leaves a beloved legacy as a coach, brother and father of son, Trace, who attends San Diego State University.
Mira Mesa High School’s principal said counseling services for students and staff will be available starting Tuesday and information about funeral services will be shared soon.