TYLER -- You would have been laughed out of a room just a few years ago if you said Nacogdoches was capable of producing the region's most sought after college football prospect for three consecutive years.

It's time to embrace the possibility.

Rising senior cornerback Josh Thompson follows a recent line of great Dragons defensive backs and proved why he was wanted by 16 schools ahead of Sunday's ETSN.fm + APEC Football Recruiting Combine presented by Azalea Orthopedics. He won the event's Defensive Most Valuable Player award.

"It means a lot," Thompson said. "I'm very East Texas, of course, but most of the athletes are in Texas. Just winning the defensive MVP, it's a blessing. I just came out here to compete."

Nacogdoches cornerback Josh Thompson pulls down an interception during drills at the ETSN.fm + APEC Football Recruiting Combine.

Former Nacogdoches defensive backs Jaylon Lane and Brandon Jones led their respective East Texas prospect groups ahead of the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Neither of those players accepted combine invitations because a wide array of national championship contenders had already offered them.

There was simply nothing left to prove for Lane or Jones by competing at the Accelerated Performance Enhancement Center in Tyler.

Thompson faced a somewhat similar predicament in the weeks leading up to this year's event. The past month has been an explosive one in his recruiting process.

However -- unlike Lane and Jones -- Thompson still lacks an offer from a team in the first breath of this year's national championship chase at this juncture of his high school career.

That could change for a prospect that was certified at 6-feet and 182.2 pounds ahead of the combine's testing phase.

"The thing about Thompson is he had a lot of hype coming in," APEC founder and director Bobby Stroupe said. "He came in and showed why he has that hype. He's the real deal. Real respectful kid. On his tests, he did things that you would expect of someone with that kind of hype to do. Really impressive. A 36-inch vertical jump is elite.

"You can't really fake a vertical jump. If you can do something like that, you have to have a level of elasticity and explosive power that, quite frankly, there are some pros that do not have. He's just got to continue to get better as a football player, but he is a good football player. He's just got to continue taking the potential that he's got and close the gap on what kind of player he is on the field. It really is limitless with a kid like that."

More than a 36-inch vertical jump, Thompson excelled across all of the APEC coaching staff's tests. The corner recorded a broad jump of 124 inches, created a Keiser squat output of 3,447 watts, put up 15 reps of 185 pounds on the bench press and ran a laser-timed 4.48-second 40-yard dash.

Thompson's 40-yard dash time briefly stood as the combine's best. Offensive Most Valuable Player Kayce Medlock, an Arp running back, ran a 4.40-second 40-yard dash a few minutes later for the best time of the event.

Nothing shook Thompson's initial impression on the APEC staff or ETSN.fm's staff during on-field drills.

At the same time, the evaluators discovered it's not just going to be Thompson in the Dragons' backfield. DaRyan Williams -- a rising junior safety prospect from Nacogdoches -- was a topic of discussion as the group tried to find a replacement for Defensive Backs Most Valuable Player in lieu of Thompson going as the overall Defensive Most Valuable Player.

Gladewater's Austin Hawley ultimately received the defensive backs' honor. Hawley will be a senior this upcoming season.

"I think people think we're losing good defensive backs like Brandon Jones and that we'll be bad," Thompson said. "There's always somebody stepping in and taking a role. I think DaRyan should be great at safety and that we should have a good defensive group and overall team."

Nacogdoches finished a 10-game 2015 season in a three-team tie for the fourth and final playoff spot out of District 16-5A. Lindale claimed the spot by nature of the best point differential among the tied teams.

District 16-5A will mostly stay intact this season despite being renamed District 17-5A in February's realignment. The only difference is former league opponents and perennial powers John Tyler and Lufkin moved to Class 6A due to enlarging student populations, which downgraded an eight-team district into a six-team district.

John Tyler and Lufkin finished first and second, respectively, within the district last year. That means there will be more freedom of movement within the league standings this upcoming season.

"I've picked up a lot from the defensive backs that were older than me," Thompson said. "They were on me all the time and wanted me to be better. They always told me they wanted me to be better than them. I'm blessed to have those types of people in my life."

Josh Thompson poses with the ETSN.fm + APEC Football Recruiting Combine's Defensive Most Valuable Player plaque alongside ETSN.fm staff members Clint Buckley (left) and Mike Graham (right). (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)