Sometimes, a job that you don’t pursue ends up being the spring-board to huge success. Which is why Kurt Thompson’s start as a head football coach seems almost to believe.

Back in 1990, at age 23 and after his second season as an assistant coach at Webb City High School, Thompson’s phone rang one February night. On the other end of the line was a sports writer from the Joplin Globe.

“I got a call from Anvil Welch congratulating me on the job,” Thompson said, referring to Webb City’s top position, which he hadn’t pursued after the departure of Jerry Kill. “I didn’t know anything about it.”

Thompson laughs about that now, but opposing coaches over the next nearly quarter century probably wouldn’t. After all, he became one of the most successful and feared coaches ever to walk the sidelines, and it’s why the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame proudly inducted Thompson with the Class of 2018.

Over 24 seasons, he was 179-87 combined for three Missouri high schools – Webb City, Kickapoo and Republic. His career covered two state championships, a state runner-up and four other state semifinal berths.

Along the way, 50 of his players earned All-State  honors, with his offenses in the early years running a veer and later transitioning to the new-age spread. That’s all while the defenses snarled in 4-2-5 schemes.

At Webb City alone, Thompson was there for nine seasons in which the Cardinals reached at least the quarterfinals seven times – playing in four state championship games — and produced eventual Nebraska Cornhuskers icon Grant Wistrom (MSHOF 2009).

It was probably no wonder that Webb City’s school board hired Thompson in 1990 to replace Kill, his position coach at nearby Pittsburg State University who had hired him as an Cardinals assistant. In his first two years in that role, Webb City finished 11-1 (state quarterfinals) and 14-0 (state title).

Like anyone, Thompson figured it would be challenging to follow in Kill’s footsteps.

“And our defensive coordinator got a job and we were starting all over,” Thompson said, but ultimately agreed to the promotion. “We just went to work.”

Thompson’s Webb City teams were 73-12. His first team, in 1990, reached the state finals. The next year? A semifinal berth. However, the 1992 team opened 1-2 and trailed Eldon 14-0 at halftime in Week 3.

His halftime speech that night?

“It wasn’t really pretty,” Thompson joked.

Turned out, a second-half rally kick-started a 26-game win streak. Ultimately, the 1992 team won three of its four playoff games by a combined 10 points, including a 24-21 win against Columbia Rock Bridge in the finals. The 1993 team had only one early season nail-biter but devoured everybody else, pitching nine shutouts.

After the 1996 Cardinals reached the state semifinals, Thompson joined the staff at Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College.

And why not? He had played at Independence Community College before transferring to Pitt State, where the Iola (Kan.) High School grad helped the team to two national semifinals and was a 1986 NAIA Academic All-American and, in 1987, was a team captain and an NAIA All-American linebacker. But …

“I kind of decided high school was where I needed to be,” Thompson said. “It was time to settle down and have a family.”

Thompson then led the Kickapoo Chiefs to an 82-37 record over two stints (1998 to 2006 & 2015, 2016).

Two of his Kickapoo teams reached the semifinals — in 2000, when Tony Temple-led Rockhurst beat the Chiefs, and in 2015 against Christian Brothers College. He was 20-3 in his final two seasons.

Not that Thompson wants the credit for successes.

“It’s about players. It’s a players’ game,” said Thompson, who also coached Republic for six years. “We had philosophies for offense and defense, but the years you had good teams, our best players were the hardest workers and had mental toughness. We didn’t have anybody who was above the team. If they were, they weren’t there very long.”

It was some ride, made great, Thompson said, because of the support of his wife, Cheryl, and their daughters, Mia and Ami. They allowed him to spend time in the game he loved – and to mold young men.

“I tried to have a great rapport with the players,” said Thompson, a 2011 inductee of the Missouri Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame. “I still talk to a lot of those kids weekly. That was the best part of it – seeing them develop.”