Thompson went to college at Washington State University, where he set numerous school, Pac-10 and NCAA records. He finished ninth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy in 1978. His prowess led the Bengals to make him the third overall pick in the 1979 NFL Draft.
He concluded his college career in 1978 as the most prolific passer in NCAA history, throwing for 7,818 yards. He set Pac-10 records for attempts, completions and TD passes. He was all-conference three times and either first-team, second-team or honorable mention All-American three times. He is one of only two players in WSU history to have his number retired (the other is Pro Football Hall of FamerMel Hein). Thompson wore No. 14 and graduated from Evergreen High School south of Seattle.
1976: 208/355 for 2,762 yards with 20 TD vs 14 INT.
1977: 192/329 for 2,372 yards with 13 TD vs 13 INT.
1978: 175/348 for 2,333 yards with 17 TD vs 20 INT.