Tom Brady’s go-to receiver, Kenbrell Thompkins fighting his way to the top



In the closing moments of Sunday’s match up between two NFL powerhouses in the New England Patriots and the New Orleans Saints Tom Brady was preparing to pull of the unexpected victory. An unexpected Tom Brady victory? Do those exist?

Tom Brady threw a late fourth quarter interception with his team already down four but he would be gifted with another opportunity thanks to the beyond impressive New England defense forcing a quick three-and-out. With 1:13 remaining in the fourth quarter, no timeouts, and 70 yards to go, Tom Brady pulled it together.

Brady was perfect in the last drive. With ten seconds left in the game he added the final stamp with a perfect touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone that gave the Patriots a 30-27 victory over the New Orleans Saints.

Field Yates of ESPN quoted Tom Brady after the game saying, “The best part for me was just looking in that huddle & realizing that every guy was ready to do what it took to win.” That is exactly what it takes to win, it takes faith in your team.

Despite Tom Brady’s great closing performance, there is another player who needs to be evaluated here a bit more closely. A player who has not been given the respect in the NFL or even in New England that he has earned. Kenbrell Thompkins.

Tom Brady Kenbrell Thompkins

Kenbrell Thompkins got a step behind Saints cornerback Jabari Greer and made the leaping catch over him in the corner of the end zone with five seconds left on the game clock. He turned and looked down on his way to the ground, took what looked to be five steps inside of the end zone just to be safe, then ran towards the crowd throwing fists of victory into the air. Those fists have been waiting to let go for quite a while, and finally, Kenbrell has his opportunity to let them loose.

Thompkins, a rookie wide receiver, was a long shot to make it in the NFL. He was signed onto the New England Patriots as an undrafted free agent and was the smallest name on a roster full of small name rookie receivers. Thompkins got his chance sooner than a few other rookies in training camp due to a injuries the team had been dealing with.

From the very first day of training camp something special was shown inside of Kenbrell Thompkins. Half way through the first practice he was one of three players I had circled to watch for. I can remember thinking to myself, “I do not know what the reason, but that kid seems to want this more than anyone else on that field”. Well come to find out, there were quite a few reasons.

Kenbrell did not only fight to make it into the NFL, he fought to make it to college, he fought to make it out of high school, he fought to live. Where Thompkins is today is one of those stories that makes you respect what the New England Patriots do for troubled kids. The organization gives them the opportunity to be better.

An article in the Boston Globe by Shira Springer goes deep into the past of Kenbrell Thompkins. Springer revealed that between the ages of 15-18 Thompkins had been arrested seven times. The worst of which came when he was 18 and he was charged with cocaine possession charges. He was extremely lucky to only had been given two years probation and sent to a military boot camp. Springer described Kenbrell’s roots as such, “Thompkins embraced its (Liberty City, Miami’s) proud football tradition and its dangerous streets….. He was a teenage boy who hung with a rough crowd, who found himself shouldering adult responsibilities in a single-parent home.”

Kenbrell came through all of this however, on top. He was able to attend the University of Cincinnati thanks to a strong recommendation from his cousin, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown. Brown had a great relationship with the Head coach of Cincinnati, having formerly played for him.

Shira Springer quoted Antonio Brown saying, “I’m willing to put my reputation on the line for my cousin Kenbrell…I need you to help him out. He just needs an opportunity. He won’t let you down.”

Thompkins played well at Cincinnati but never produced big NFL prospect numbers. He did graduate from the University of Cincinnati in 2012 however with a degree in criminal justice.

Fast forward again six months now. Kenbrell Thompkins has gone from a kid looking to get off of the streets to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots most valuable receiving option. He has half the receptions that teammate Julian Edelman has but Kenbrell’s 21 catches have been extremely significant to the results of games. He leads the Patriots with four touchdown receptions which is also the sixth most out of all receivers in the NFL.

This New England Patriots team have three of the top twelve players in the NFL in dropped passes.  Kenbrell Thompkins played a hand in this with a rough start to the season. His progression however has been tremendous. Thompkins caught 33% of his targets in the first 3 games. In his last 3 games he has caught 60 % of his targets.

Throughout six games, Kenbrell Thompkins has 90 yards and 0 touchdowns in the first and third quarters of games. In the second and fourth quarters he has 228 yards and 4 touchdowns. All 4 touchdowns have come in the red zone and all 4 touchdowns have been scored while the Patriots were either up or down by either one possession. That is the definition of a game changer.

This shows that when it is crunch time, and the Patriots put themselves in position to score, Tom Brady will be looking for Kenbrell Thompkins, as he should be. Kenbrell Thompkins is going to fight until the last second. Keep throwing those fists Kenbrell and you will be great, in football, and in life.

Kenbrell Thompkins