Written by SportsDayDFW.com
Margaret Thatcher's grandson, Michael, had moment in the sun with Highland Park football in Dallas
Blimey! Thatcher taking over Grandson of former British prime minister lifts Scots in playoffs
The following appeared in the Dec. 15, 2007 editions of The Dallas Morning News
* * *
UNIVERSITY PARK - Michael Thatcher's over-the-head, fingertip catch and tumble during Highland Park's playoff win over West Mesquite last week couldn't have come from a more surprising source.
After all, Thatcher, the grandson of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, grew up in South Africa playing cricket and field hockey.
And Thatcher, Highland Park's starting running back, has been mostly an afterthought in the passing attack with 13 receptions in 14 games.
Still, his catch was one for the ages.
"It was a spectacular catch," coach Randy Allen said. "I have never seen one like that."
With Highland Park facing a third-and-8 from its own 18 in the second quarter, quarterback Winston Gamso took a snap, scanned the field and scrambled left. Gamso spotted Thatcher, his third or fourth option on the play, sprinting down the sideline.
Gamso heaved a high, long pass toward Thatcher, who stretched his arms and grasped the back tip of the ball. Holding on with two fingers and a thumb on his right hand and the palm of his left hand, Thatcher maintained possession as he hit the ground and rolled over. The catch went for a 48-yard gain.
"I'm not known for my hands," Thatcher said. "I was in a state of shock, to be honest."
Eight plays later, Thatcher scored on a 12-yard reception to give Highland Park momentum and a 21-6 lead at halftime. Highland Park rolled to a 49-6 win.
The week before the game, Gamso recalled explaining the route to Thatcher at practice.
"You just clear coverage," Gamso told him. "Don't worry about it. You'll never get this ball from me."
Catching a football has been a learning process for Thatcher, who worked many hours with Gamso this summer.
Thatcher learned how to position his hands from watching others because he spent his childhood catching cricket balls.
Thatcher, who has dual British and U.S. citizenship, was born in Dallas. Michael's father, Mark Thatcher, is the only son of the former British prime minister.
Mark Thatcher married Texan Diane Burgdorf on Valentine's Day in 1987. The family spent most of Michael's childhood in Cape Town, South Africa.
"My dad was really excited to get me playing cricket and field hockey," Michael said. "He was a great cricket player when he was my age."
Michael was captain of his sixth-grade cricket team and was an all-regional field hockey player.
When he moved back to the United States in the seventh grade, he tried basketball and lacrosse but realized they weren't for him, so he tried football. As a running back, Thatcher knew he had to run left or right, but didn't understand anything about holes or blocks.
"I didn't know what a first down was until the end of the year," he said.
In his freshman year, Thatcher considered quitting. He thought he wasn't going to be big enough to be a running back. But he stuck with it and has grown to his present size of 5-11 and 170 pounds.
In his sophomore year, Thatcher was the running back for the junior varsity "B" team. Now he starts for a team two wins from a state title.
"He is kind of one those guys who worked hard and made himself into a good player," Allen said.
In the first game this season against Waxahachie, Thatcher had just one carry for minus-2 yards. For most of the year, he was part of a committee of running backs.
Allen said he didn't feel confident about his team's running game until the sixth game of the season against Rockwall-Heath when Thatcher rushed for 81 yards.
Thatcher steadily began to improve his blocking and running. Allen said he now is better at breaking tackles, finding holes and getting yards after first contact.
In four playoff games, Thatcher has rushed for 412 yards and scored six touchdowns, almost equaling his numbers for 10 games in the regular season.
Thatcher's catch last week shows how much he has blossomed.
Even days after the game, his teammates and friends were still buzzing about that play, leaving him pictures of the catch and bragging about it.
"I almost got tired of hearing about it," he said. "It's always fun to have people telling you are doing well."