Thompkins Feels Right at Home

The North Carolina standout committed to Penn State in part because he felt most comfortable there. See what else went into his decision.

There's a theme developing with each new member that joins Penn State's Class of 2014: PSU just feels like home.

That was one of the reasons Swansboro (N.C.) High receiver De'Andre Thompkins became the fifth member of State's 2014 class Saturday following the Blue-White Game. Fellow receiver and Delaware product Chris Godwin then cited the same sentiment when he became its sixth member Tuesday.

Since July of last year, family -- a sense of home -- has been a common tone coming out of Lion program. And, recently, there has been a steady flow of players eager to join that family, scholarship reductions and bowl bans be damned.

“I didn't have the mind-set of committing at all when I was going into the trip, but when I went up and watched the game and met the staff and players, it just felt like home,” Thompkins said after having a few days to reflect on his decision. “It's a great environment -- always positive -- and those guys work for what they want. They're coaching for the hard work, and any of those guys could have left.

“They're there because they want to be there.”

And while he won't be here for quite some time, when he does finally arrive, it will be because he wants to, too.

The junior passed up scholarship offers from 12 other programs to give his verbal pledge to Bill O'Brien in the head coach's office after spring practice had officially concluded. His father joined him, as did State receiver coach Stan Hixon. Thompkins said O'Brien reacted as you might expect a head coach to when any player commits.

“I felt like every section had been checked, and he was excited and jumping around, and told me it was a great choice,” Thompkins said. “I feel like I've made it to this stage. Now, I want to be a part of the hard work, and I'm happy and excited about what is coming about.”

Thompkins brings versatility to University Park. At 6-foot, 175 pounds, he has the type of top-end athletic ability needed to excel as a multiple threat on offense, returning kicks and even at defensive back.

He noted that it doesn't matter what position he ultimately plays in blue and white, but also said that wide receiver is a position he loves, and that returning just feels natural.

“Coach Hixon and O'Brien said, obviously, that they want to see me do kick-off and punt returns, but as far as offense and defense, I'll play offense,” he said. “They think I could play outside or in the slot, and they also mentioned athlete type plays like jet sweeps and stuff like that.”

Any recruit will say that there is more to his decision than football, and Thompkins is no different. The fact that Penn State offers a strong academic program played a large role in his decision. But it goes deeper than the classroom.

“They expect you to get the highest grades in class, and they expect a lot and make sure they [players] do what they're supposed to do,” Thompkins said. “One thing that caught me when Coach O'Brien was talking is that he doesn't prepare players for the NFL. He plans for them to be successful in life without football.

“I love the game, but at some point, having that strong [academic] background will be big. He [O'Brien] has the insight to know what you need to go to the NFL, and will get you there,” he added. “If you can't, or are not seen as an NFL type-player, he'll work to make you the best student and man to go into the workforce and be at the top of your game.”

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