When UW linebacker Bryson Thompson remembers his happiest moment, he doesn’t mention those two times his team won the Rose Bowl. He doesn’t talk about his 21st birthday, and he doesn’t bring up his girlfriend of two years.
Nope, he leaves all that stuff out. Instead, he tells you about his foster brothers.
“I was younger, probably about 11 or 12,” Thompson said. “I think it was Christmas. My foster brothers were there — I have two foster brothers — and my brother was there, my mother was there, and my dad was there. We were all down there to open up presents. We had the food getting ready in the kitchen. That was a good time for me.”
It’s interesting when Thompson talks about his life because — well, because he actually talks about it. Ask a two-year starting Division I linebacker about his dreams, and his face usually contorts into the kind of look reserved for people who attend PETA conferences in mink coats.
Thompson seems different. His eyes gleam at the chance to talk about social work (also his major). He can’t tell you enough about how he volunteered part of his off-season to the local Boys and Girls Club to counsel adolescent boys about drugs and alcohol, or about those boys’ habit of making his bad days into good ones. Thompson doesn’t just tell you his dream: he tells you why. He wants to tell you why.
“I actually can feel like I did something,” Thompson said. “Like I sat down, talked to a kid, you know, maybe helped him, made his day a little easier, helped him through some problems he had. That’s something for me that really gets me going and makes me feel good.”
Thompson’s role in the Badgers’ defense hasn’t always been as clear as his career path. This year he has seized the starting inside linebacker position, but last year he shared playing time there with his high-school buddy and best friend, Jeff Mack. Before that he played as a reserve outside linebacker. And, oh yeah, Wisconsin recruited him as an all-state safety.
When he isn’t switching positions, Thompson tries to blend his 6-foot-1, 223-pound body into the rest of the UW student body. He names Memorial Union, Langdon Street and the State Street bar scene as his favorite parts of the UW campus. He also hasn’t failed to notice Scanner Dan and his State Street ilk.
“Yeah, there’s some different individuals down there on State Street,” Thompson said. “When you’re on State Street, it’s a good time. I like going there because sometimes you just sit out there on the street eating something at one of the restaurants, just watching different types of people go by.”
As a senior, this is Thompson’s last season with the Badgers. His career hasn’t been much of a fairy tale — he only recorded 48 tackles in his first three seasons before almost matching that number in this year’s first five games  — and he won’t come close to matching his brother Donnell’s career tackle total, which is 10th-best in UW history. If Thompson were to harbor regrets, nobody would begrudge him.
And he does have some regrets. OK, he has one. Sort of.
“One thing that I really love now that I didn’t have back in the day — this is my first year having it — is a scooter,” Thompson said. “I’ve never had a scooter. I mean, maybe this seems kind of stupid, but, I mean, I absolutely love my scooter. I absolutely hate walking. I can’t stand it.”
A scooter? Four years of college on top of 18 years of life, and he regrets a scooter?
We should all be so lucky.