Tehachapi's Online Community News & Entertainment Guide

Thank you for your service 'Dr. Death'

Xs and Arrows

The Tehachapi Warriors lost another major community supporter a few weeks ago with the passing of longtime Warrior physical therapist Derek Thompson.

Known by the players he treated as "Dr. Death," Derek's no-frills approach to therapy and treatment was aimed at one thing, putting kids back into competition as soon and as strong as possible. While his antics were well-known on the mountain, I can say given my interactions with athletic trainers all over Kern County, his impact on the profession was well-known and respected. He also gave generously to Bakersfield College and Arvin High School and trained many young athletic trainers in the meantime.

For years he volunteered his time and services to the Warrior sidelines and provided many a early-morning appointment for a student-athlete rehabbing from a variety of injuries. His approach was simple and physical, the sweat-drenched bodies of many of my teammates arriving to school following an appointment with Dr. Death told all the story we needed to hear. The man meant business. In interscholastic athletics there are no medical "red shirt" years, lost time is just that, lost, and Derek Thompson realized that.

I was fortunate to both know the man and have limited interaction with him, that was by design based on the experiences of many of my Tehachapi teammates. I remember my first interaction occurred prior to my first varsity football game as a junior. I was a backup that year and figured I would not play much, if at all, but I found out upon arriving at the locker room that all offensive lineman were expected to have their ankles taped.

Here's the thing about Derek and the THS football program in general, nobody believed in pre-wrap, that nice foam stuff that usually goes on before the tape. Derek's belief was that it made the tape slip and therefore any taped areas should be shaved so the tape could stick. Of course, I was unprepared that August evening when I hopped up onto his training table. He shot me a look upon seeing my unshaven ankles and I responded with, "I didn't know I needed to get taped." He responded with a quick "Dumb ---" and proceeded to then tape an especially-painful to remove tape job on both ankles. Lesson learned.

Of course, even upon shaving your ankles Derek always seemed to find a way to go just a little but higher and capture one or two hairs when completing his tape job, so much so that most of us just ended up shaving our entire leg just to be safe. We know he enjoyed messing with us like that.

I remember after one practice I was limping for something, and Coach Denman asked what was wrong and if I needed to see Derek. You would have thought I touched the garment of the Good Lord himself as quickly as my ailment healed upon hearing those words. "Nope, I'm fine." Crisis averted.

Derek Thompson was another example of someone giving of themselves to benefit his community, whether it was Bakersfield College, Arvin or Tehachapi High School, Derek's impact was felt through years of student-athletes at a variety of levels. He was the epitome of public service while providing expertise and healing to those who came in contact with him. While an adopted son of Tehachapi, his impact on Warrior athletics is one of folklore status and someone we will forever claim as one of our own.

Make an impact during the time you have on this earth, Derek Thompson certainly did that; the Tehachapi Warriors are forever grateful.

Corey Costelloe has covered NCAA, professional and local sports for more than 20 years as a reporter, broadcaster and athletics administrator. He advocates for the value of athletic competition and serves as the President of the Tehachapi Warriors Booster Club. He can be reached at [email protected].