Undrafted Thompkins out to prove himself

Undrafted Thompkins out to prove himself
August 18, 2013, 1:45 pm
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FOXBORO – Kenbrell Thompkins hasn’t yet gotten over the fact he wasn’t drafted. And he doesn’t plan to.
 
“It’s definitely a moment I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” Thompkins said Friday night after the Patriots second preseason game. “Sitting there waiting for that phone call and not to get it, that’s a guy’s dream, to hear [your name] get called and for it not to be called, I’ll remember the rest of my life.”
 
Thompkins didn’t catch the only ball thrown his way on Friday night. That in itself is news. The undrafted wideout from Cincinnati has been – along with Zach Sudfeld – the most intriguing story of camp.
 
He’s obviously gained Tom Brady’s trust. The number of times he was thrown to by Brady in the preseason opener against Philly (four times on one drive) is an indicator of that. And the number of obscenely athletic catches he’s made on an almost daily basis at training camp shows a wealth of talent.
 
How does such a talented player wind up with no team willing to draft him?
 
Two factors. He moved around a bit in college, committing first to Tennessee then – after coach Lane Kiffin slipped out of Knoxville – deciding to transfer to Cincinnati. And he was arrested multiple times between the ages of 17 and 19.
 
But Thompkins wasn’t an unknown entity. This predraft profile on NFL.com pretty much nails his description.
 
Was he angry at being passed over?
 
“No anger at all,” he maintained. “I’m not in control of the draft boards and who they draft and who they put on their team. All I can control is where I end up and I try to live in the moment.”
 
The arrest of Aaron Hernandez this summer prompted the Patriots to say that, going forward, they would audit more closely the backgrounds of the players they bring aboard. It’s fair to wonder whether Thompkins’ arrests would make the Patriots shy away from him if they were faced with the same signing him today.
 
But, as Thompkins said Friday, he’s here now and that’s what matters.
 
“My past don’t even matter right now,” he proclaimed. “I was at the wrong place at the wrong time but I’m happy where I’m at. I just try to keep a level head and keep living in the moment. My past is where it’s at. I’m focused on the future right now and that’s here in New England.
 
Thompkins has a nice blend of physical skills. He’s big enough to use his strength on corners – 6-foot-1 – but lean enough to beat players with quickness – 193. He’s also extremely sudden in being able to stop on a dime and sit down in a spot. Some players have to throttle down and chop for a few steps to come to a halt. Thompkins seems to be able to do it almost immediately. That knack, combined with Brady’s accuracy, make Thompkins a prime candidate to closely replicate the routes run by Brandon Lloyd last year.
 
Asked if Brady has put high expectations on him, Thompkins replied, “There’s high expectations for everybody, all three phases of football here every position. We’re just trying to go out there and do better every day. A receiver’s job is to get open and catch the football. That’s what we’re trying to do every day.”