The Next Great Bearcat?

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If you don't like it when a future UC football or basketball player is hyped as the "next great Bearcat" before ever playing a game, you should stop reading this column right now.


Because I'm about to lay it on pretty thick.


Admittedly, I have only seen Kenbrell Thompkins at a few practices, but I have no hesitation predicting that he will be the next great Bearcat wide receiver. 


I'm not alone.


"When our defense is going against the scout team, they are going against what I think is not only one of the best receivers in the Big East conference but the entire country," said head coach Butch Jones. 


"What do I know - I'm not a scout - but he's one of the best guys that I've ever thrown the ball to," said quarterback Zach Collaros.  "He runs unbelievable routes and pays attention to detail,"


"I appreciate them saying that," Thompkins told me.  "Some great receivers have come through this program and there are some great receivers here right now - Vidal Hazelton, Armon Binns, and recently Mardy Gilyard.  I'm going to work my butt off to be one of the best."


Kenbrell Thompkins.jpg 

After spending two years at El Camino College in California, Thompkins originally signed with the University of Tennessee.   But when Vols coach Lane Kiffin abruptly bolted to become the head coach at USC, Thompkins reconsidered his options and chose to play for Butch Jones and Cincinnati. 


"I actually have a cousin that played at Central Michigan last year, who is currently on the Pittsburgh Steelers roster - Antonio Brown," Thompkins said.  "He told me nothing but good things about the University of Cincinnati.  I had offers from schools like Florida and Alabama, and I signed with Tennessee, but things didn't work out.  My heart and mind weren't with Tennessee after the situation that went down.  Antonio told me to make sure that I was comfortable at whatever school I decided to choose.  That played a big part in my decision.  He told me nothing but great things about Coach Jones and his staff.  I wanted to play for a guy that I knew would care about the players and would make sure that I graduated and did the right things. Coach Jones is doing a great job of that."


"Antonio called us and one thing led to another," Jones said.  "It was like he was meant to be here.  We hit it off on the visit and you could feel his passion for football and education.  He's been a model of consistency for us day in and day out."


"If I would have known Coach Jones during the whole recruiting process, he would have probably been the guy from day one," Thompkins said.  "I love everything about him and I like how he's running the program.  I'm blessed to have the opportunity to be a part of what he's doing."


Thompkins hoped to play for the Bearcats this season but was ruled ineligible by the NCAA after Tennessee refused to release him from his letter of intent.  He is permitted to practice and will have two years of eligibility remaining.


"I was very worried about that because I know how much he needs football in his life," Coach Jones said.  "He's taken it all in stride.  He says he believes he's here for a reason and has been extremely positive and upbeat.  He's very attentive in meetings and he's patiently waiting his turn." 


"Everybody told me that it's just a process," Thompkins said.  "I can't get discouraged at all - that's one thing that I can't do.  Every bit of free time that I have, I try to go out and catch balls.  Even if it's just a jugs machine, I try to do anything that I can to get better." 


"I love K.T.  He's out here working harder than anybody else on our team every single day and he's not even eligible," Collaros said.  "In the summer we were out here every single day and I have a ton of respect for Kenbrell Thompkins.  I can't wait to be able to throw him the ball next year."


Thompkins commitment to excellence goes beyond the football field.  He earned a 3.9 GPA in his last academic term and has put on 15 pounds on muscle in the weight room since arriving in Clifton.


"You can't just live off of being a genetic freak," Collaros said.  "You need to fine tune your skills and he works hard at everything that he does."


"I think his future is as bright as it can be," Coach Jones said.  "He's tough, he's physical, and he's an individual that needs football in his life every day.  It's the first time that I've been around a player that isn't eligible to play who is one of the team leaders.  Our kids have a tremendous amount of respect for him." 


"My feeling is - if you're going to do something, be good at it," Thompkins told me.  "I try to lead by example - in the classroom and on-and-off the field.  I'm trying to do what I can this year, but next year, I'll be a great leader - trust me."


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1 Comment


I really enjoyed the article. I, as we all did, had hoped that Kenbrell would have been eligible for this season but if I were Derek Dooley, I wouldn't have given him a release either. Of course that should only push Mr. Thomkins that much harder for next year's opener in Knoxville.

Love your play-by-play and can't wait to hear your call when we beat WVU Saturday.

Go Bearcats. Beat WVU.

Chris Wise
OCAS '92