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Wall Comes Tumbling Down : Chargers: There's a person behind the facade guard Broderick Thompson has sometimes hidden behind--some would say a pretty caring one.

October 06, 1990|T.J. SIMERS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN DIEGO — First impression after meeting Broderick Thompson: "Am I glad I'm not Broderick Thompson."

Arrogant and aloof "and don't forget condescending," agrees Thompson, who was initially accepted in the locker room about as readily as an outbreak of athlete's foot.

When some of the Chargers organized a "Bad Boys Club," complete with T-shirts, jackets and baseball caps a few years ago, they made it known membership would be confined exclusively to the offensive line but with the exclusion of starting guard Broderick Thompson.

The media understood. Better to leave the locker room with an empty notebook than approach that so and so.

Broderick Thompson has started 36 games in a row for the Chargers and is only one of 13 players to be with the team for four or more years. And his press clipping file is empty.

"I'd see the reporters interviewing (James) FitzPatrick and other guys who weren't as good as me, and I'd ask myself, 'What's going on?' " he said. "Maybe it's the wall I've built up. People can't see over it, I guess, and don't know what's there."

As the world has come to understand, no wall stands forever.

"I adore the guy," Charger receptionist Stella Viets said. "He will stop by for no reason but to say hi. Sometimes he will bring flowers just because."

Guard David Richards said, "He's a pretty sensitive guy."

Maybe the Venus de Milo really does have arms.

"There's depth there," Richards insisted. "Take a look--there's more there than most people see."

A challenge for the Hubble telescope. "You'd say, 'Hi,' to him and get a grunt in return," defensive coordinator Ron Lynn said. "Some of those who coached him in the USFL had said he was half a jerk or acted like he was a little better than everyone.

"I don't really think he's that kind of guy, though. But you have to get beyond the exterior to really understand and appreciate Broderick Thompson."

You may even have to talk with Broderick Thompson.

"I never got the opportunity to express myself," he said. "I'm not that complicated."

But behind Thompson's glowering veneer is this $90,000, five-bedroom home in Compton, a simple house that complicates the Thompson image.

Purchased more than two years ago by Thompson and J.D. Hawkins, a Compton friend and former Olympic wrestler, it has become haven to seven youngsters who had nowhere else to go.

"It began with doing something nice for some troubled youngsters," Thompson said. "The local police gave us names. These are not real bad kids but kids who got caught up with problem kids, and just needed a way out.

"We formed this group and bought a house right down the block from where I grew up. The kids live there with a volunteer house mother. The kids get paid $2.50 an hour for doing chores around the house after school, and if they keep their grades up, their reward on Sunday is coming to the Charger game."

The youngsters are paid from a pool of money provided by Thompson and Hawkins. In the past, Thompson has spent as much as $800 a Sunday to send the youngsters and friends to a Charger game.

But unlike last year, when the kids sat behind the home team bench in Charger regalia and touted themselves as the "BT Express," all is quiet this season.

"A lot of people didn't know what it meant," Thompson said. "Some thought I was just blowing my own horn; they didn't know the inside story. So no more banners, no more loud shirts. Now the kids just come to the games and have a good time."

The wrong impression--again. If there was something to be gained via the "BT Express," it would not have taken him more than two years to discuss it.

"I just like kids," he said. "I know how easy it is to be distracted and go the wrong way. Especially with no rearing. I know how close I was to getting in trouble, and I had two parents."

Thompson was raised in Compton, but before seventh grade he moved to Cerritos, another Los Angeles suburb.

"The opportunities came almost daily to get in trouble," he said. "And with my parents, if the street lights were flickering, I was in a full sprint to the front door.

"Most of the other guys would talk about me having to go in before the street lights came on. But that's when they would start getting into mischief, while I was in the house."

Thompson played basketball for the Gahr High Gladiators but stayed away from football after a discouraging freshman season. He was on his way to joining the Navy when Cerritos College football Coach Frank Mazzotta took notice of the hulking, 6-foot-5 basketball player.

"I had nothing else to do," Thompson said. "It was easy: 'Go around this guy and go get the other guy with the football in his hands.' "

Thompson came on quickly as a junior college defensive lineman. Some major colleges took notice. But at the same time, Thompson also earned some parental freedom and, by his account, began to run wild.

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