Chris Thomsen met Mike Norvell when they were at Central Arkansas in 2003. An immediate impression was made.
Thomsen was coaching the offensive line and Norvell was a wide receiver. The coach-player relationship later evolved into one where Thomsen worked at Arizona State as assistant head coach/offensive line coach while Norvell was offensive coordinator.
On Feb. 5, the Osceola asked Thomsen about his role as deputy head coach on Norvell’s staff. It is a relationship built on familiarity and trust.
“I just think when you’ve been a head coach you have a unique perspective about what that person’s dealing with and what he’s going through,” Thomsen said. “Part of that is maybe helping them put out fires. There’s just so much to a college football program, just to have somebody to help you with the head coaching things is big. Sometimes the messaging with the players, what he’s saying to the players. Anything that he needs to do that can help him do his job better is what I want to do.
“We’ve known each other for a long time and worked together. And I have a really good feel for how he works and he understands how I am. The relationship is one that I trust him and understand what he’s trying to do and I’m excited about that and all in with him.”
Thomsen, who is FSU’s deputy head coach and tight ends coach, now takes over the day-to-day head coaching responsibilities leading up to the Miami game following Norvell’s positive coronavirus test. The 51-year-old Thomsen was the head coach at Abilene Christian from 2005-11, where he was 51-21 at the Division II school, and has since spent time at Texas Tech, Arizona State and TCU before joining Norvell at FSU in Dec. 2019.
Not having Norvell on the sideline as play-caller at Miami is significant. But Thomsen has the experience to help offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham with preparation for the game against the Hurricanes as well as working with the offensive staff on game day. Offensive line coach Alex Atkins was also the offensive coordinator at Charlotte in 2019.
A few weeks ago, during FSU’s preseason camp, Thomsen discussed how much he has enjoyed working with Norvell as well as Dillingham but it’s also the first time he has worked with Atkins, wide receivers coach Ron Dugans and running backs coach David Johnson.
“I have enjoyed it a lot,” Thomsen said. “I knew from Arizona State what I was getting with coach Dillingham and obviously coach Norvell. Had always heard about coach Johnson from the guys at Memphis. Never really got to work with him. And coach Dugans and coach Atkins were the two guys that I didn’t really know as well but the chemistry of the group has been really, really good. All of those guys are very professional, they understand the system and what we’re trying to get accomplished. That’s not always the case. I’ve been on staffs where people are pulling different directions and you have different agendas. That’s just not the case with our group.
“I have really enjoyed working with these guys to this point and excited about what we can do this year with the players that we got. With the coaching staff that we have got, the group of players that we have, I think we can put a good product on the field and so I’m excited about the group we’re working with. It’s been really good so far.”
What is Thomsen like as a position coach? When media observed FSU’s open practices in the spring it was clear he is a teacher at heart. He instructed tight ends on ball security and the fundamentals of the game.
In FSU’s opener against Georgia Tech, Camren McDonald caught four passes for 41 yards. His 27-yard grab set up an FSU touchdown on the team’s initial drive.
“On the field, coach Thomsen is a very, very intense coach,” McDonald said in August. “He’s very detail-oriented. He’s a great run-blocking specialist and he’s also very, very advanced in the passing game as well. He helps you create advantages being able to block players who are bigger than you but if you’re technically sound, which coach Thomsen emphasizes, you have just as great a chance to win that individual block as if you were 15-20 pounds heavier. That’s what I really appreciate about coach Thomsen.
“Off the field, he’s a very easy-going dude. He’s easy to talk to and he talks to us about life and not just football as well. That’s what I appreciate about coach Thomsen.”
Below is the Osceola’s video chat with Thomsen from April: