Senior midfielder Kyle Thomson has been on the field for 6,750 minutes in his college career. He has been off the field for eight minutes of the 71 games the Ramblers have played during his college career, according to Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) statistics. He has been either first or second on the team in minutes played throughout his four years on the team.
Thomson has been a captain of the Loyola men’s soccer team since his junior year and a starter since his first year at Loyola.
Thomson has logged so many minutes because he never gave the coaches a reason to pull him out, according to head coach Neil Jones.
“He played every minute as a [first-year at holding midfielder] which is a very difficult position to play even as a senior,” Jones said. “Just hard work, dedication to the team, a team-first mentality, defending, communicating and instilling trust in the staff but, more importantly, instilling trust in the players around him [is] why he’s on the field.”
When a first-year player is getting as many minutes as Thomson did, Jones said it’s important the older players trust him.
“The older players when they see a [first-year] on the field and not coming off the field, they need to understand in their minds that he should be playing every minute because he’s that good and he works that hard,” Jones said.
When Thomson was being recruited, he was deciding between Loyola and Indiana University Bloomington. He said he chose Loyola because he knew he could make an immediate impact on the team and the program.
“[A coach told me] ‘You can go to Indiana and be another one of the guys that they produce, another kid at Indiana,’” the 21-year-old supply chain management major said. “By the time you graduate and finish your time at Loyola, five or 10 years down the line after graduating and you make Loyola a perennial top-25 team, that would mean a lot more to you.”
Upon arriving at Loyola, Thomson got his chance to help turn around the men’s soccer program immediately. In 2013, the year before he arrived in Rogers Park, the Ramblers went 6-11-2. In 2014, with Thomson starting all 19 games, the Ramblers finished the season 8-6-5. The Ramblers have improved in every season of Thomson’s career, finishing 10-4-5 in 2015 and a team record 14-4-1 in 2016.
Helping to turn the Ramblers’ fortunes was something that appealed to Thomson from the start. He knew the team was in a rebuilding phase and he wanted to leave his mark.
“When I got here, I knew it was a rebuilding process. I was all on board and I bought into what [Jones] and the other coaches were selling,” Thomson said. “I was just coming in and improving every day. It wasn’t like I had a spot as a freshman, but I knew what level the team was at and I knew what level I was at and I wanted to be playing as a [first-year].”
As a holding midfielder, Thomson has to be responsible for what happens all around him on the field, according to Jones.
“It’s a two-way position so there’s things left, right, in front and behind whether you’re attacking or defending,” Jones said. “It’s a 360-degree approach, you always have to be checking your shoulders and making sure things are in the right place around you, organizing the players to your left, to your right, to your front and to your back.”
Thomson has become one of the team’s biggest leaders by showing the other players how to be professional and work hard every day, according to Jones.
“He leads by example. He shows the younger players — and even some of the older players — you need to have a professional approach every day,” Jones said. “He’s a good person, a good human being, so guys feel comfortable talking to him and asking him questions. He’s a great mentor.”
One of the players Thomson has mentored is sophomore midfielder Aidan Megally. Megally and Thomson both grew up in the northern suburb Park Ridge and played for the same club growing up. Thomson talks to Megally about home and shares advice on what playing in the midfield is like.
“He’s definitely shown me some of the necessary components of what it takes [to play in the midfield],” Megally said. “He kind of just leads by example. He was a staple of our midfield last year and is this year. That was something everyone on our team learned from, just being consistent day in and day out.”
Thomson will add to the number of minutes he’s played in his college career on Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. when the Ramblers are scheduled to head to Springfield, Missouri to play Missouri State University.