Ultimately, though, the visit turned out just right, nearly a month before he's on campus for good as an early enrollee.
Thompkins is one of three Penn State Class of 2014 wide receiver commits, and the Swansboro (N.C.) three-star was hosted by Nittany Lion cornerback Jordan Lucas. Despite playing different positions, the two clicked immediately, as Lucas, fresh off his best season, related the necessary details to college life and starting off right.
"I figured a wide receiver would host me, but I'm not complaining at all," Thompkins said. "As soon as we met, we were pretty cool. He gave me a lot of insight about what to expect coming out of high school into college, and was really cool and down to Earth. I really learned a lot for him."
Raw, snow filled weather kept Thompkins in State College Sunday, meaning his trip back to North Carolina didn't end until Monday night. The extra time allowed him to savor the highlights of the weekend, and take in the sights and sounds of the town and its campus.
When he wasn't hanging out with the his classmates, Thompkins spent most of his time with receivers coach Stan Hixon, a pair of uncommitted prospects in offensive tackle Alex Bookser and defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi, and the rest of State's roster playing video games and watching football Saturday. The senior also chatted with head coach Bill O'Brien two or three times throughout the visit, and both outlined what they expect from the North Carolina native.
Off the field, they expect high academic pursuits and a dedication to the weight room. On it, they told him they can't wait to see the explosiveness he displayed for Swansboro this season. The athlete caught 28 passes for 269 yards and four scores, rushed 82 times for 699 yards and nine scores, and returned 11 kicks, at least one of which went for a score.
"[Coach Hixon] just wants me to produce on the field, feel my role, and do my job to the best of my ability," Thompkins said. "My ability with punt and kick returns is one of my responsibilities. As far as receiver, in his eye I'll play slot, but outside most of the time."
The staff also spoke with DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) running back commit Mark Allen about returning kicks, and Thompkins said the duo had discussed the idea of handling the job together.
"I have a bond with pretty much everyone in my class, and Mark is no different," Thompkins said. "We talked about being back there together, and our goal is to return every kick they kick to us for a touchdown. So we have high goals when it comes to that."
The 6-foot, 175-pound pass catcher said O'Brien told him he expects explosiveness and an ability to change the game at any given time. If Thompkins' high school stats are any indication, it's certainly an attribute he can provide.
Asked whether or not he'd redshirt, Thompkins said he and O'Brien didn't discuss it this weekend, but have previously. And much like the other commits, anything is possible. For now, though, the receiver has every intention of seeing the field from the get-go, especially with a jump-start on his career due to his January arrival.
"A while back, [O'Brien] said he probably wouldn't redshirt me at all," Thompkins said. "He wants me to get on the field as fast as possible because of the numbers, so I don't think I'll redshirt."
New Jersey defensive tackle Antoine White will be Thompkins' roommate upon both arriving at University Park, mostly thanks to a friendship spurred from their first conversation before heading to the Beaver Stadium sideline to watch warm-ups on a chilly October day. Hours later, State would upset Michigan, 43-40.
The two rarely stopped chatting throughout the visit, and discussed over the weekend who would bring what to fill up their freshman dorm room. With the arrival date growing ever closer, so is culmination of a dream to play Division I football. Thompkins and White had it, and so did the other Class of 2014 recruits in attendance.
Time still separates them from that day, though, which is why Friday through Sunday was about football. But it was also about learning, joking and camaraderie, all laced together as the early ingredients to a tight knit football team down the road. Thompkins believes they found that over the weekend.
"It was a big, fun time, and I know that sounds simplistic, but it's true," Thompkins said. "We just all had a good time together. The recruits got together, hung out with all the players, and we already all felt like a part of the team.
"We all joked around, and had a good time. As far as this week goes, we had a good connection with everybody, and just felt like we were already there and a part of the team."