ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Those who visit Clothes Horse in downtown Alpharetta are likely to see the friendly, smiling face of co-owner John Thompson behind the counter, ready to provide what he calls a “real service” to those looking for casual and comfortable clothing. Thompson’s welcoming attitude, soft southern-drawl and readiness to assist is perfect for a business owner, but it’s hardly something you’d expect in a southern football coach of nearly four decades.
For the past 38 years, Thompson has spent his days and nights in the locker rooms, practice fields and sidelines as defensive coordinator for some of the most prolific collegiate football programs in the nation.
He coached with Steve Spurrier at South Carolina, Nick Saban at LSU, Lou Holtz and Houston Nutt at Arkansas, Ron Zook at Florida and Jeff Bower at Southern Miss. Couple that with stints at Alabama, Ole Miss, Arkansas State, Louisiana Tech, Memphis, Georgia State and Texas State and two years as a head coach of East Carolina, and it’s easy to see that Thompson’s career has been rich with experience and talent.
“I’ve had a very blessed career,” Thompson said. “It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.”
But perhaps the most memorable season is his most recent as defensive coordinator at Blessed Trinity High School and leading the Titans to the program’s first state championship in football.
“I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a season as much,” he said. “It wasn’t just about winning, but also being off the field and being able to be with those guys. We had good players that were so much fun to coach and coach (Tim) McFarlin is so good at what he does and just lets us coach. There was no drama, nothing. The players bought-in and it was a dream come true.”
Following BT’s 16-7 win over Marist on Dec. 15, head coach Tim McFarlin, as well as linebacker Jake Rudolph were quick to point to Thompson as vital to the state title.
But Thompson disagrees.
“They took me to the state title,” he laughed. “It was a true blessing.
The season also currently bookends Thompson’s career with high school state championships. He was hired as defensive coordinator by legendary Arkansas and Texas high school coach John Outlaw in 1979, leading Arkadelphia High to a state title in his first season.
BT’s season under Thompson almost never got its start, unless, as he put it, the stars seemed to align.
After leaving Texas State in 2015, Thompson opened Clothes Horse with his wife, Charleen, and for the first time in decades found himself without a football-related job.
Thompson knew of the sports-scene around Roswell after working under Jeff Bower — a legendary Roswell High School athlete who led the Hornets to five state championships in baseball, basketball and football — at Southern Miss.
He also became familiar with Blessed Trinity’s former defensive coordinator Tim Ewing when they worked together at Georgia State.
Missing the coaching scene, Thompson decided to pay Ewing a visit one day at BT. Just two weeks later, Ewing had taken a job at Walton as defensive coordinator, leading to a call from McFarlin asking Thompson if he’d want to join the Titans’ coaching staff.
And a few months later, Thompson could add another state championship to his list of accomplishments.
Thompson knows he will continue coaching next year, but as of now, he’s not sure whether that will be at Blessed Trinity, another school or perhaps back at the collegiate level. No matter where he lands, Thompson said he is forever grateful to coach McFarlin and BT for the opportunity to get back into coaching.
While he figures out which team’s logo he will sport on the sidelines next season, Thompson is staying plenty busy at Clothes Horse. The business is currently in a remodel, doubling the size of its location on Milton Avenue.
So if you should venture through its front doors, you will know that friendly man behind the counter is more than a business owner, but a storied football coach.