"He's a great player," Swansboro head coach Tim Laspada said. "He's a ‘yes sir,' ‘no sir' kid. He's very coachable. He understands the game very, very well. He picks up things very fast. Speed wise, he's second to none – he has track speed playing football. He's dynamic. He can change a game."
Laspada was on Richland (N.C.) High's coaching staff when Mario Williams played there. Laspada says Thompkins "ranks up there" as a prospect with Williams.
Laspada noticed he had something special in Thompkins as a seventh grader. However, Laspada received a shot of disappointment when Thompkins moved to Georgia following that school year. Unbeknownst to Laspada, Thompkins moved back to Swansboro prior to his sophomore year.
"I didn't know who he was until we had a practice and I was like ‘Man, this kid can do a lot,'" Laspada said. "And then on the ride home my son said, ‘Hey dad, you know who that was?' I said, ‘No.' And he said, ‘That's DeAndre, the kid that left seventh grade year.'"
Immediately, Laspada took advantage of having Thompkins on his roster by playing him at quarterback, wide receiver, strong safety, and running back.
"We use him everywhere," Laspada said. "… We don't have a whole lot of talent, so we use him everywhere and anywhere. He is kind of the difference maker for our team."
"As far as being that guy, everybody loves it," Thompkins said. "But I love my team enough to give them the ball, too. When it comes to the point where I don't have to touch the ball, I'm glad that my friends can pick it up. Most [opponents] key on me during the game, and the more guys key on me, the more it is for other people. So I'm a good guy to give the ball to, but I'm a good distracter, too."
That first season, Thompkins rushed for 1,027 yards and nine touchdowns, and caught 22 passes for 404 yards and three scores.
As a junior, Thompkins rushed for 1,359 yards and ten touchdowns on 175 carries (7.77-yard average), had four receptions for 96 yards and a score, passed for a touchdown, and returned five of his 11 kickoffs for touchdowns. Defensively, he accumulated 42 tackles (32 solo).
Duke, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, NC State, and Penn State are among the eight schools to have offered Thompkins. Georgia, Notre Dame, and Tennessee have visited Swansboro to evaluate him, while schools like Alabama and South Carolina regularly send him mail.
Thompkins is receiving looks at wide receiver and safety, but some schools have simply said "athlete." Laspada believes Thompkins's best fit is wide receiver.
"I think he's tall enough, fastest enough," Laspada said. "He's a good route runner. He catches the ball well."
Wide receiver happens to be Thompkins' preferred position.
"I'd love to play wide receiver," Thompkins said. "That's just the spot I think I'm naturally gifted at, but I'll play anywhere if I like the school, the staff, and the team."
After camping at UNC, Thompkins returned to Chapel Hill for the UNC-Virginia Tech football game last season.
"It was a great place," Thompkins said. "The people around there that come to the games, they're wild [and] they're into it. [I like] just how the staff prepare for the game and how they hype up their kids before they go out to the field."
Before and after the game, Thompkins spent significant time with UNC's coaching staff.
"They answered questions, showed me facilities, and I actually talked to [Larry] Fedora," Thompkins said. "They said I would be everywhere – running back, wide receiver. They see me as a kick returner, punt returner. They said I could play defense and offense."
Dan Disch is recruiting Thompkins for UNC.
"Disch and I get along great," Thompkins said. "He's a great guy. We relate very well. He's down-to-earth. He relates to me. He's just a great guy overall – I couldn't ask for more."
Besides UNC, Thompkins has visited NC State and Penn State. He is working on trips to Georgia, Georgia Tech, and South Carolina, and will return to Chapel Hill for the UNC-Duke basketball game on March 9.
"All the schools that I've visited, they have special things about them," Thompkins said. "I can't really throw a school out, because if they aren't good in one area, they're really good in another area. So I put every school equal."
Towards the latter part of the summer, Thompkins plans to name the schools he's truly considering. He'll trim that list further to about three schools before the first game of his senior football season.
Thompkins's father is in the military. Thus, Thompkins says he has moved about every two years and has lived in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi… According to Laspada, Thompkins clocked a 4.41-second 40-yard dash at UNC's Camp… Thompkins runs track for Swansboro participating in the 100-, 200-, and 400-meter dashes. His personal best times include 10.5 in the 100, 20.9 in the 200, and 48.9 in the 400… Thompkins grew up a Florida fan, because he spent a good portion of his childhood in Florida and his father is a diehard Gators fan. However, he says that won't factor into his recruitment. "Knowing that my dad loves the Gators, we sat down and talked about it," Thompkins said. "He wants the best for me. If that's not Florida, then it's not Florida. We're going to put my future in front of what school he and I like."