TFG’s Rookie Roundup series features a multitude of draft prospects, illuminated through Q&As. Learn more about their off-the-field lives, as well as where they might fit in the NFL. We’ll be adding players between now and April 25th (start of the NFL Draft), so please check back often!
Every season, without exception, wide receivers emerge in the NFL who were not drafted until the later rounds or not drafted at all. Jacksonville’s Cecil Shorts III and New York’s Victor Cruz are recent examples.
Kenbrell Thompkins, a wideout who finished his collegiate career at the University of Cincinnati hopes to join them. Thompkins’ life story – beginning in the rough Liberty City neighborhood of Miami where he was arrested multiple times as a youth to finding himself through football at the junior college level to being on the brink of a professional contract – has been an upward journey all the way.
Thompkins finished last season with 34 catches, 541 receiving yards and two touchdowns. He has avoided any trouble since 2008 and is now the proud father of a one-year old son.
I chatted with Thompkins about how he got to this point and how his game would fit into the NFL.
Melissa Jacobs: First off I want to harken back to your childhood, which I know was pretty rough. At what point did you see football or playing sports as a way out?
Kenbrell Thompkins: At a young age, I always loved the sport of football. It was something I found peace with myself at and just really enjoyed. When I got to high school I played football because I grew up doing it. I wasn’t playing it with a purpose to play in college or anything. I played it because it was something the school had and something I did the majority of my life. When I sat out one year from high school it kind of hit me. Did I really want to live my life the way I was doing it? It was something I decided I didn’t want. So I went to junior college and once enrolled, it was the best thing that happened to me.
MJ: At what point exactly did you realize you might be good enough to go pro?
KT: I would say junior college. In high school I was a major factor on my team but I wasn’t doing what I did in junior college. That’s where I really found myself physically and mentally. That chip really fell down on my shoulder and I really felt that football was my calling.
MJ: Now you’re here on the brink of the draft. Pretend like I’m a general manager and tell me in 30 seconds or less why I should draft you.
KT: My name is Kenbrell Thompkins and I’m a very physical player. I’m very coachable. I’m consistent. I like to be consistent. I’m willing to work like crap. I’m a finisher. I can take criticism and I’m willing to do anything to help the team win.
MJ: What receiver do you think your playing style most emulates?
KT: I try not to emulate one wide receiver. I try to take a little from a lot of great receivers and put it together. Right now, I watch a lot of Jerry Rice still. I like the style of Reggie Wayne. He is great with his hands and ha very good hand-eye coordination. I feel like I have some of Chad Ochocinco too. He’s very quick with his feet, which is something a lot of receivers don’t have. I watch a lot of Antonio Brown of the Steelers as well. He’s a guy who players with a lot of confidence. Every time he makes a catch he lets you know he belongs there.
MJ: Right now you’re projected as maybe a Day 3 guy. I heard great things about your recent Pro Day but what can you do at this point to improve your stock?
KT: I have one more workout coming up. Maybe I can go up there and really show them the things they couldn’t see and talk to them and let them know that I’m not the person that my past describes. I’m done with the Combine and the workouts and right now; it’s in God’s hands and I can’t wait.
MJ: When you sign that first NFL contract, what’s the first thing you’re buying for yourself?
KT: Besides making sure my mom and son are taken care of, my first purchase would be a car. An up-to-date car. I’m not really a slow driver. I’m not really a turbo driver either but I like a fast car.