T. Donald Thompson ’56
Hometown: Newton, MA
Year Inducted: 2005
After a stellar all-scholastic career in football and hockey at Newton (MA) High School, T.D. Thompson burst onto the Brown gridiron scene in 1952, living up to his nickname "Zipper". He led the Brown Freshman Team to its first undefeated, untied season, and as co-captain scored fourteen of Brown's twenty touchdowns, including four against Yale.
Although only five feet six inches tall and one hundred fifty five pounds, "Zipper's" unique running style quickly made him a marked man in the Ivy League. A threat to score any time he touched the ball, the dynamic Thompson befuddled would-be tacklers with his explosive acceleration and mesmerizing change of pace and direction. "He could make cuts that most backs only dream about making" said teammate Dave Zucconi '55.
Thompson exchanged his cleats for skates every winter, and spent four outstanding years on the ice for the Bruins, demonstrating his versatility by playing every position but goalie, and being among the scoring and assist leaders annually.
As a sophomore in the fall of 1953, "Zipper" Thompson experienced a star-turn season, attaining national rankings and leading his team in rushing, scoring, and punt and kickoff returns. He was also the leading pass receiver, and his 72 yard touchdown reception against Princeton established a Brown record. In addition, because of the new limited substitution rule, he played lots of defense. Post-season honors poured in, and Thompson was named All-New England, All-East, and a Colliers Magazine Sophomore All-American.
Despite being hobbled by injuries in the first four games in 1954, Thompson returned to play a key role in Brown's stretch run, finishing the season second in kickoff and punt returns. The 1955 campaign was "Zipper's" comeback season, and he returned to his old form, leading the team in all offensive categories except rushing and scoring (second). He was tenth in the nation in pass receptions and finished his career as Brown's third all-time punt returner and among the leaders in all-purpose yards.
After graduation the American Civilization major continued to excel, setting sales records for NCR. T. Donald Thompson's life was cut short by a tragic accident in 1958, when he and his wife, the former Virginia Findlay '56 were killed.
Thompson was selected to Brown's 125th Anniversary All Decade Team in 2003. Perhaps the assessment Alva Kelley, his head coach at Brown sums up "Zipper" Thompson's career best in the following recollection: " In my 29 years of playing and coaching college football, he was, pound for pound, inch for inch, and playing both offense and defense, perhaps the most notable halfback of my football career."