Thompkins: 'It was Different'

DeAndre Thompkins has made a couple visits to North Carolina in the past six months, including last month's junior day. But, according to Thompkins, both previous visits paled in comparison to Saturday's Junior Day.

"It went great," Thompkins said. "I talked to pretty much the whole staff. I got to talk to them not only face-to-face, but individually. I got to really ask them what their plans were for the Tar Heels.

"It was just different – the environment, the way the whole day was set up. Usually, you can put an idea on what's going to happen [and] what they're going to talk about, but everything was a surprise. You're really up on your toes the whole day. I really liked that about it."

Among the activities that Thompkins, a 6-foot, 167-pound athlete from Swansboro (N.C.), really enjoyed was the cornhole tournament among the junior day visitors.

"Everybody was into it, all the coaches were talking trash – you could really see the competitive side of each other," Thompkins said. "But at the same time, everybody came together. Teammates came together. Rivalries came out. Coach [Gunter] Brewer was everywhere jumping around."

A bracket was already assembled for the tournament when the visitors made their way to the players' lounge. When Thompkins looked to see who he was paired with, he was happy to discover it was Josh Cabrera, a fellow recruit from the Jacksonville area who he has started to develop a bond with.

"We both looked at each other and smiled," Thompkins said. "We have actually talked a lot [previously]. He lived in Georgia really not far from where I lived in Georgia. I knew where his school was. We actually connected as soon as we started talking.

"We have a lot of similar traits. We have a lot of similar ideals on life. We have the same ideal on football and what type of school we're going to pick and the process we're going to pick it. We just connect as two friends – he brings the best out of me and I bring the best out of him."

Unfortunately, the duo of Thompkins and Cabrera didn't last long in the tournament.

"We tried to put it together piece-by-piece," Thompkins said. "We were actually losing early on and then we got serious, buckled down, and started to come back. But the other team got a couple of lucky strikes."

Thompkins also liked when the group was brought into the UNC locker room where they were able to try on jerseys, helmets, and other gear.

"We were taking pictures with that stuff on - it was just icing on the cake," Thompkins said. "After that we were able to walk through the tunnel and onto the field. We were doing what college players do. They don't really enjoy it, because they do it every day and we're just high schoolers and we dream about doing it. We got to do the whole football process right then and there."

Thompkins' stay concluded with the UNC-Duke basketball game. Despite the thumping UNC took, Thompkins couldn't help but be in awe of one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports.

"It was crazy," Thompkins said. "You hear about the Carolina-Duke rivalry and you shrug it off, because you hear about it all the time. But actually being there you actually feel it. You feel everybody screaming, yelling. When you see it in-person, it kind of takes your breath away. You don't really realize how important the game is until you see everybody standing, jumping, and clapping; and you see the student section going crazy."

Despite all the enjoyment, Thompkins is not ready to name favorites – and won't be ready to do so until closer to the football season.

"Being at [UNC], I can tell you I really like the school – I really do," Thompkins said. "But as far as putting them higher than any other school, I'm not ready to do that. The twist is you have to know the school before you can say you have a top five. I don't know all my schools yet, because I haven't been to all my schools."

Besides UNC, Thompkins has visited NC State and Penn State. In the first week of April – his spring break – he is going to try to set up visits to Georgia, Georgia Tech, and South Carolina. He is also looking to visit West Virginia at some point.

"First, I'm looking at academics overall," Thompkins said. "Secondly, is the football program producing – not just is the program making NFL players, but are they making their players better. And the third is how fast can I get that playing time [and] experience."

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