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New film enshrines Ogden High coach Erik Thompson’s fight with ALS

Coach, family share screening of ‘The Luckiest Man on Earth’ at Ogden High School

By CONNER BECKER - Standard-Examiner | Jun 6, 2024
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Ogden High head football coach Erik Thompson calls a play from the sideline during a 7s scrimmage with Ben Lomond, Clearfield and West Field on Wednesday, June 5, 2024, at Ogden High School.
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Seats fill up at Ogden High School's auditorium before the public premiere of 'The Luckiest Man on Earth,' a half-hour documentary detailing the Ogden High head football coach Erik Thompson's life story and battle with ALS, on Monday, June 3, 2024.
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Ogden High head football coach Erik Thompson shares his thoughts after the public premiere of his new documentary, 'The Luckiest Man on Earth' at Ogden High School on Monday, June 3, 2024.
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Dan Davis, co-director of 'The Luckiest Man on Earth,' opens the screening of Ogden High head football coach Erik Thompson's new documentary on Monday, June 3, 2024, at Ogden High School.

OGDEN -- Beloved Ogden High football coach Erik Thompson is taking his story a bit further.

A new documentary chronicling the longtime football coach's three-year strife with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) premiered publicly to a near-full auditorium Monday at Ogden High School, seeking to preserve Thompson's legacy -- and grit -- for years to come.

The 35-minute short film entitled "The Luckiest Man on Earth," directed by local filmmakers Dan Davis and Briana Johnson, details Thompson's family life, coaching career and eventual 2021 diagnosis with ALS (sometimes referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease) amid his fifth season at Ogden.

Thompson's sister, Jenny, reached out to Davis' team about the project's potential shortly after the coach's diagnosis. After breaking the ice, Erik and Dan soon formed a connection through their personal health histories.

"When he came to interview for the first time, he was really struggling with his health," Erik Thompson said. "We kind of connected and became friends and had some similar beliefs and stories and experiences.

"He was going through it at the time, pretty rough, and I was just beginning a rough road ... I think it was on both sides that when we became aware of each other's story, we started to like and get to know each other better and have respect for each other."

The film gives the viewer an authentic, unscripted look at Thompson's experience, Davis said. Initially reluctant, Thompson took strongly to the concept of documenting the Tigers' subsequent season following his diagnosis.

Scenes tap into Thompson's daily life as a coach, husband and father while capturing the physical challenges that carry into the present day. Davis also highlights Thompson's signature mantra, "Forget About Me, I Love You," recognized as "F.A.M.I.L.Y." within his football program, as a key, recurring theme throughout the documentary.

Davis' crew captured it all, including Ogden's "Erik Thompson Night" game held vs. Grand County, which resulted in a 42-14 victory in September 2021, and featured a recording of Thompson's memorable postgame address to family, friends and fans.

"We were there behind the scenes in the locker room and on the field and seeing Erik in action," Davis said.

Initially sitting at a run time of about 10 minutes, Davis said his team couldn't pass up an opportunity to extend the production and tell a story with broader appeal.

"We decided to make it longer because we wanted to get this out to a national audience," Davis said. "We wanted to do something that could be on streaming services and be online for the world to see because their story was just too big for a small production."

What started as a simple way to conserve a special season quickly morphed into an acclaimed testament to one of the state's longest-tenured coaches.

"I thought it would be a record just to have for my wife and kids and family," Thompson said. "We were just really pleasantly surprised when it turned out as good as it did and they kind of extended it and put more into it. And that time, we saw what maybe this could be."

"The Luckiest Man on Earth" recently won second-place honors and the Audience Choice Award for Documentary Short Film at the 2024 Zion Indie Film Festival in Orem. Davis' Utah-based production company, Stiry, is currently working to make the full-length documentary available on streaming platforms.

"Erik's got a really strong message and I think it's got a really good chance to get the film out to the masses because of how strong his message is," Davis said.

Thompson plans to return this fall for his eighth season at Ogden and his 21st season overall since beginning his head coaching career at Northridge in 2004.

Connect with prep sports reporter Conner Becker via email at cbecker@standard.net and X @ctbecker.

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