St. Joseph High School football player Robert Thompson will have plenty of time to get ready to play college football next year.

Thompson, who has verbally committed to Old Dominion University in Virginia, will graduate from St. Joseph in December and enroll in January at the college. He'll receive a full athletic scholarship. The Monarchs recruited him to play cornerback. He's also a wide receiver at St. Joe.

Old Dominion, in Norfolk, Va., is a currently a member of the Colonial Athletic Association in the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly I-AA), but will join the FBS as the 14th member of Conference USA on July 1, 2013. Other Conference USA schools include East Carolina, Marshall, Tulane, Texas-El Paso, Southern Mississippi and Rice.

"I went to Old Dominion in April for a spring game, and it was a family-oriented program, a family atmosphere," said Thompson, 17, a Gloucester Township, Camden County, resident. "I liked the atmosphere and I told my mom that I would probably choose it as my school. I didn't know at first that they were going to be in Conference USA next year, but when I found out that helped to make the decision. Now people will be able to see me on TV."

Thompson, 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, is also a hurdler and high jumper on the St. Joseph indoor and outdoor track and field teams. He won the state Non-Public B indoor 55-meter hurdles championship in February. His speed and leaping ability got colleges interested. Iowa recruited him, along with other schools such as Bucknell, Villanova and Colgate.

"(Old Dominion) liked my size and speed at cornerback, and my deep coverage," Thompson said. "I didn't have a lot of tackles last year, but I'm aggressive to the ball in jump balls.

"It came down to them and Iowa. Old Dominion will give me a great education, and Iowa was a 15-hour drive away. I really wanted my family members to be able to see me play. I also have an uncle who lives in Virginia Beach."

Thompson played two years of JV football at St. Joseph, and then started last year as the Wildcats went 10-0 and won the Cape-Atlantic League National Conference and state Non-Public I titles. Thompson caught a 30-yard TD pass in the 51-0 state championship win over St. Mary of Rutherford. At cornerback, he helped the Wildcats to finish the season with 19 points allowed all year.

He scored on an 80-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter Saturday in St. Joseph's 37-29 win over visiting Absegami. It was the Wildcats' debut in the CAL American Conference.

"Robert is a nice player and a very good student," said St. Joseph coach Paul Sacco. "At 6-1 he has a lot of leverage on people and that's a factor at cornerback. He has a lot of speed. He made one little move on the return and he was gone. He's doing a nice job offensively. He made a big catch for us down the stretch."

Thompson said he was ranked seventh academically in his junior class last year with a 4.2 GPA. He'll major in business and finance, and plans to get his masters degree in sports management.

Both ODU head coach Bobby Wilder and assistant Michael Zyskowski, Thompson's recruiting coach, encouraged the St. Joe standout to get an early start academically and athletically.

"I'll start my first college semester in early January and graduate as early as I can," Thompson said. "I can get on the weights there to get bigger and be at practices to get ready for my first college season."

Contact Guy Gargan:

609-272-7210