The rookie receiver has burst onto the scene in Foxborough. Undrafted out of the University of Cincinnati, Thompkins is expected to be the team’s starting outside wide receiver, besting draft picks Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce after a stellar training camp.
Thompkins’s rise to become a starting NFL receiver didn’t come without adversity. He had a tumultuous upbringing, getting arrested seven times between the ages of 15 and 18 for drugs and robbery. He committed to Morgan State, but was unable to attend because of a lack of grades. He ended up starting his college career at El Camino Community College in California, becoming the school’s all-time leading receiver. (His quarterback was Matt Simms, the current New York Jets backup.)
He ended up signing a letter of intent to Tennessee, choosing the Volunteers because he liked coach Lane Kiffin. But his move to Tennessee was never meant to be. Kiffin departed to take over USC and he de-committed from the school, ending up at Cincinnati thanks to his cousin, Antonio Brown, a wide receiver with the Pittsburgh Steelers and prodigy of former Central Michigan and Cincinnati coach Butch Jones.
Thompkins had to sit a year because Tennessee didn’t release him from his letter of intent. But that didn’t stop him from being successful and getting his act together. He caught 78 passes for 1,077 yards and four touchdowns in two seasons for the Bearcats, keeping his nose clean while under Jones’ tutelage. He went undrafted because teams were scared off by his arrest history.
At 25, he’s one of the Patriots’ oldest rookies and is expected to be the team’s primary deep-threat receiver. He has shown an explosive burst off the line and an ability to fight for balls in the air. The speedster was clocked with a 4.46 40-yard dash, better than Brandon Lloyd and Chad Johnson, his predecessors. But most importantly, he’s shown himself to be focused and consistent, two qualities the Patriots value highly.