From a medical standpoint, he and the team's doctors had to make the correct decision.
"Our doctors aren't going to let him go back out there unless he's totally healed," Holliday said. "They're not going to take a chance of letting the guy play one game if he's not healed. He is."
And with that, has the green light to play that precious one more game.
But it won't be easy. Two weeks ago, he hit the treadmill for the first time. Last week, he resumed weightlifting after that long hiatus. He'll take his first football hits sometime this week.
This may be his toughest test since his first practice as a walk-on, way back when. But he is confident he can fight through the pain and the fatigue and take some snaps against the Terrapins - "I'm planning to eat while I'm out there," he said.
His return is inspiring the entire team, which already has great respect for his abilities.
"He probably had the most in his bag of tricks in the pass rush, and he was definitely the strongest defensive end," said offensive tackle Clint Van Horn. "On the D-line, he had the most game experience other than [tackle Brandon] Sparrow. J.T., he was probably the hardest to block. He was strong, fast, quick, smart, all the things you look for in a defensive end.
"That's why it really hurt us when he was gone."
And it hurt from a leadership standpoint, even if Thompson never left the sideline. And it hurt on a simple personal level, because they respect him so much.
Thompson's teammates delivered on that respect, racking up nine victories and a bowl berth - thus giving their leader one more game.
"He lived through us, through the season," Bazzie said. "And now that he can actually get to play with us, that was a Christmas present we gave him."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, dougsm...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.