Kenbrell Thompkins comes with the tragic redemption arc- busted for robbery charges and seven arrests in three years prior to his high school graduation- and the chips on his shoulder are probably larger and crispier than those on Tom Brady's. Last season he won over the hearts of New Englanders everywhere.
He turned heads with his route running. His speed. His ability to fight for the ball. His "clutchness".
Thompkins' life changed when his younger brother received a scholarship to the University of Miami. "He never chose the route I choose," said Thompkins about his brother. "He stayed in school and earned a scholarship."
Thompkins received that rare second chance and opted to commit himself to being the best he could be. He spent a year away from football. He went on to play in Junior College and was named the team captain. He was recruited by powerhouses like Alabama, Florida State, and Oregon. He ultimately landed at the University of Cincinnati when his cousin, Steelers receiver Antonio Brown, recommended he join up with Brown's former coach.
With a focus on school, he earned a 3.9 GPA in his first semester.
I tell you this because his is a story of rebirth. Since he's joined the Patriots family he has helped community service efforts with a focus on the importance of reading and learning. He has changed and he's being the leader that he himself had needed when Thompkins was a child.
Last preseason we saw accolade after accolade laid upon Thompkins about his performance and his potential. He delivered as the season opened, drops aside, and became one of the shocking storylines in a season that had the potential to be a disaster.
He caught the game winner in week 6 against the New Orleans Saints and then disappeared. He didn't receive a red zone target the rest of the season.
But he's back at it. With Aaron Dobson sidelined with a foot injury, all reports are that Thompkins is stronger than last year. He has experience in the system. He's explosive. He's been the best receiver on the field, making circus catches left and right.
This isn't a coincidence. Thompkins isn't another Zach Sudfeld. Thompkins is fighting and earning his time on the field. He's running with the first team offense and he's practicing with Tom Brady.
I'm already the conductor of the Aaron Dobson hype train. I'm about to fire up the engine on the Thompkins-Train.
He's going to make the team, along with Dobson, and Josh Boyce, and Julian Edelman, and Danny Amendola, and Brandon LaFell. He's going to earn his playing time as the Patriots move back to Josh McDaniel's patented three-receiver sets.
Thompkins' star is burning as bright as ever.