Thompkins sees growth in himself, team

UNIVERSITY PARK — It was never a confidence issue with DeAndre Thompkins. It was more of a timing issue.

The receiver didn’t have anything to show from his role with the offense following wins over Appalachian State and Pittsburgh to start the season. That all changed in Penn State’s clobbering of Kent State last weekend, reeling in four catches on four targets for 101 yards and a touchdown reception.

Not bad for someone who had to learn the ins and outs of playing wide receiver when arriving at Penn State because his dynamic style of play never held him to one set position in high school.

Despite not contributing in the receiver role in the first two games, his self-confidence never wavered any.

“I always have confidence in myself so it wasn’t really a turning point,” Thompkins said. “It was just when I get an opportunity, I take advantage of it. Confidence comes from knowing your opponent and just having the confidence in yourself as a football player.”

Thompkins has found other means in contributing to the Lions’ early-season success serving as the team’s punt returner. He has six returns for 130 yards (averaging 43.3 a game) with a 39-yard touchdown return at Pitt. He says, “Fearlessness and confidence are pretty much the two components you need (to be a punt returner).”

But he, like so many other of his teammates, has taken coach James Franklin’s approach and is not looking in the rear view mirror, but rather, ahead to Illinois.

Thompkins, again, doesn’t lack the confidence heading into the matchup, but rather, has excitement for what both teams can bring to the field.

“They’re a very talented (defense). They’re very good on third down. They’re also very good at turnovers so it’s going to be a very interesting game,” he said. “We pride ourselves on not turning the ball over and we also pride ourselves on percentage on third down. So I expect a hard-nosed team fighting on every down and it’s just going to be a good battle.”

This marks the first time since 2014 — Thompkins’ and Franklin ‘s first season at Penn State — that the Lions will make the trek to Champaign. The circumstances are far and away better for Penn State — last time in Illinois, the Lions fell to the Fighting Illini, 16-14, and were in the midst of losing six of their last nine contests that year.

This time, the Lions find themselves in a really good spot — ranked 10th in the country as Big Ten play opens up for them.

“There’s a lot we’ve gone through adversity wise,” Thompkins said. “I just think (the biggest difference between 2014 and now is) trust overall in the coaches and having a strong bond with each member of this team with each year going, it’s getting stronger and stronger. That’s the most consistent thing that’s been on the rise since day one: the relationship between the players and coaches and the relationship between player and player.”

What a relief

With Hurricane Florence hitting much of the east coast, and especially the Carolinas, Thompkins, a resident of Hubert, North Carolina, said his family is safe and sound. The storm has caused major flooding throughout the southeastern region.

“A lot of people are being sheltered at my high school where they have food and water,” Thompkins said. “A lot of people have had their homes destroyed. … They’re planning on bringing the community together and find ways to rebuild the confidence in everybody in the little town I’m in. Everything’s going well, not good, but everybody’s safe. Most importantly, my family’s safe.”