There’s no substitute for hard work, and linebacker Stefon Thompson wouldn’t want it any other way.
Coming off a career year in 2021 and a season that saw Syracuse finish in the top 20 in total defense, Thompson has lofty expectations for the defense this season.
“We want to be the best in the nation," Thompson said. "That’s our goal so we work hard every day to be the best.”
With defensive anchors like Mikel Jones and Garrett Williams back, it’s not out of the realm of possibilities. But Syracuse will need guys like Thompson and defensive back Darian "Duce" Chestnut to step up their game. Something that’s already noticeable through the first week of camp
“Stefon is one of our leaders," head coach Dino Babers said. "Him and Duce are leaders on the defense. Stef doesn’t get his credit. Stefon Thompson doesn’t get his credit at all. Duce is going to be one of those guys, we’ve got Garrett [Williams] on the other side. People are going to come after him. Our success is going to depend on when people do go after him.”
The duo are embracing new roles as well, and setting high standards for younger guys to follow.
“We just lead by example," Thompson said. "Showing up to meetings early, leading by example.”
“That’s always been that way my whole life, that leadership role, so it’s nothing really new to me,” Chestnut added.
Thompson and Chestnut have also found ways to grow their budding chemistry off the field as well, getting after each other on the basketball court in the off season.
“We used to go in there and hoop," Thompson said. "He’s from Jersey so he’s got some wiggle to him, he can shoot so we go in there, we just goof off, play around."
“[Thompson is] an energetic guy, you might not see it a lot but he’s definitely and energetic guy on the court, we play the game together,” Chestnut said.
It’s just a microcosm of the close relationships the defense shares.
“It’s really the team goals above personal, like, we have to work as a team to get those personal goals," Thompson said. "I don’t even focus on the personal goals really, just go in there, do my job and make play.”