By Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff
FOXBOROUGH - Patriots fans were already learning about Kenbrell Thompkins, the undrafted rookie receiver whom Tom Brady has been looking to early and often since the season began. But a week ago, after his last-second, left-corner-of-the-end-zone, 17-yard game-winning touchdown catch against New Orleans, most of the NFL's fandom learned a little bit about him as well.
The 25-year old Florida native took a winding road for his college career, with stops at two California junior colleges before playing two years at Cincinnati. Thompkins didn't put up huge numbers with the Bearcats, and that combined with his backstory - he also got into his share of trouble as a teenager, something he will readily acknowledge - meant he wasn't on the radar of many NFL teams.
But New England signed him just after the draft ended, and despite drafting two receivers, one in the second round (Aaron Dobson) and one in the fourth (Josh Boyce), it is Thompkins who has had the biggest impact early on this season.
First job: My very first job was I was around 11 years old cutting the grass for my mom. I got a weekly allowance – I forget how much it was, but it was definitely enough to take to school with me.
First car: I’ve never had a car, actually. I’ve never had a car of my own that was in my name. I definitely do know how to drive, of course, but I haven’t had a car yet. I’m still driving a rental car but I’m looking forward to getting one pretty soon.
[Did you hold off on buying one because you didn’t know if you’d make the roster?] I think that played a role a little bit, but just waiting for the right time and make sure that I pick the right car that I want, instead of just rushing to have anything right now, so it took for me to get a couple of game checks.
[Anything you have your eye on?] I kind of have a need for speed, and I understand there’s (rough) weather here, so I think the Jeep Sahara, those are cool and not too big, not too small, and I’m from Miami so I can bring it to Miami, take the doors off if I want for the sun, and I like the Dodge Challenger, Camaro.
Favorite meal: In Miami we’ve got Benihana, and I think I could eat Benihana Monday through Sunday for real. Chicken teriyaki.
In heavy rotation on my iPod: I’m listening to Drake, ‘Nothing was the Same.’ Pretty dope album – it has calm music, it has rap as well, and that’s an album I can let play from one to the end, I think that’s pretty dope.
Prized possession: Yes. My 2-year old son [Kenbrell II - not Jr., Thompkins notes]. He’s a guy that brings joy to me – come home from work and no matter how my day is going, I see him and he brings me joy every time.
Place you want to visit but haven’t yet: There’s a lot of places I haven’t been before. This is actually my first time going to New York, and New York is on my list, but obviously we’re going strictly for football. I want to see Paris and tour the world, but if I could name one place, it would be Paris.
Favorite TV show: “Martin", of course. That’s the TV show that I can watch in the morning, afternoon, night, whatever, and it brings tears (of laughter) to my eyes every time I watch it.
If they made a movie about my life… It would be a motivational movie, just showing perseverance and showing that anything is possible, that an inner-city kid who had his back against the wall and not knowing what life had to offer him at an early age, searching for an identity and finds it playing football. A guy that loved the sport of football, made a lot of wrong choices at a young age, but football actually saved his life…Getting to know God at an early age and understanding my purpose in life, because they always say the purpose of life is a life of purpose. When I understood that, it made me understand that my calling is football and made me dedicate more time to it.
[Who would play you?] I’d say either Boobie Miles [the actor who played that “Friday Night Lights” character is Derek Luke] or Mekhi Phifer.