Kenbrell Thompkins could be the anti-Hernandez for the Pats


It’s fitting that a season marred by murder charges against one of the Patriots’ top tight ends could be salvaged in part by an undrafted wideout who was arrested seven times before his 19th birthday.

Kenbrell Thompkins was signed before Aaron Hernandez’s arrest and possibly wouldn’t have been signed after it.  The rookie has emerged as one of the best receivers on the roster.  He started Thursday night’s preseason game against the Lions, catching eight passes for 116 yards.

The cousin of Steelers receiver Antonio Brown, Thompkins’ history was recently detailed by the Boston Herald.  At age seven, he shot himself in the arm.  In middle school, he was selling drugs.  An arrest for armed robbery prompted one of multiple expulsions from high school.  Later, Thompkins was busted for possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, and he served 28 days in jail.

A convoluted path through college football ended in Cincinnati, where Brown helped persuade coach Butch Jones (who coached Brown at Central Michigan) to give Thompkins a chance.  Though Thompkins caught only 34 passes for 541 yards and two touchdowns in his final season with the Bearcats, he has quickly shot up the depth chart in New England, starting the team’s two most recent preseason games.

With second-rounder Aaron Dobson and free-agent arrival Danny Amendola destined to get plenty of playing time, Thompkins could be nailing down one of the outside spots when Amendola lines up, as he inevitably will, in the slot.

Thompkins’ history fits the profile of the kind of player that the post-Hernandez Patriots may try to avoid.  But the rookie’s potential performance, if coupled with good behavior, could make it harder for teams like the Patriots to know when to give a guy with a troubled past a chance to turn his life around, and when to avoid the player at all costs.

By all appearances, Thompkins has changed his life.  Given their experience with Hernandez, the Patriots may be in much better position to draw a reliable line between guys who truly have separated from past troubles, and those like Hernandez who merely say all the right things.

33 responses to “Kenbrell Thompkins could be the anti-Hernandez for the Pats

  1. Remember when everyone said that about Hernandez when he got drafted. Yeah, maybe we shouldn’t say absurd things like “the Pats know when to give a troubled guy a chance and when to avoid a player at all costs”.

    Clearly they DON’T know. That’s not their fault necessarily, but its patently stupid to say “the Pats know when to go for it and when not go”. No, they don’t. That’s why they’re in the mess they are in.

    They’re just hoping this works out unlike the last time they tried bringing in a huge red flag player.

  2. What is obviously sad with the signings over the past few years is that Belichik is desperate to win and is valuing that over character. I dont care how you spin it Pat fans a guy with this background should never been signed and to some degree is another A.H..

  3. He’s 25 now and has kept his nose clean since he was a teenager. I’d say he’s the Anti-Hernandez. Some people really do get their lives together.

  4. He is the anti-Hernandez in the sense that his misfortunes actually lead to arrests early on. Maybe thanks to the criminal justice system he got the wake up call Hernandez is getting now, as his life is all but thrown away.

    The funny thing is Thompkins just turned 25. Hernandez is 23.

  5. The kid turned his life around. I am proud of him. The only advice I have is, “DON’T GO HOME.”

    For many people who come from that side of the tracks the people around them, even family or friends you have known for much more than a decade that they are like family, they bring you down due to jealousy or spite. They hate your rise, and/or they want a ride on your coattails. If you have to be your own man on your own you’ve got to do it.

    It’s hard cutting off family, but it is harder when you look at your life and they are the reason you didn’t succeed. Sometimes you have to do it. It hurts, and it is tough, but you have to.

  6. He will have a couple decent-good seasons, sign a massive contract, think he is above the law and start shooting people just like Hernandez did. I get that people deserve “second chances” but come on. 7 arrests before 19, what is wrong with this country. You got people getting murdered because the youth is “bored.” Well when they have NFL players like this to look up to it only perpetuates the cycle.

  7. Belichick once said after a player got injured late in a game – ‘Tell me which players are going to get injured and I will take them out.’ The line here would be ‘Tell me which players are going to get into legal trouble and I won’t draft them.’

  8. He’s been a model citizen since college, if you read the article. Saying that he shouldn’t have been signed and he doesn’t deserve the chance he’s getting is crazy IMO. Don’t we want people to change their bad behavior and be assets to society? How will that ever happen if no one gives them the opportunity to do so? Good for Kenbrell, I’m rooting for him.

  9. “Character,” the favorite cliche of the sanctimonious sports fan. There’s no indicator that a guy is gonna up and kill 3 people because he smoked weed and got into bar fights. Rae Carruth had no red flags, neither did OJ. Pats would be wise to not freak because of an outlier and continue letting this guy shine.

  10. He’s another AH only if he screws up his second chance. Read his story; tragic and unfortunate as his upbringing was, he didn’t kill anyone. Time will tell but right now, he’s making the right choices.

  11. Wow, terrible way to present his past, without bringing up the situations that lead to his turnaround. This guy knows he shouldn’t be there, and that’s why he’s the one running with the starters. Florio if you think Dobson is starting over this guy you’re crazy. Bill doesn’t give a crap when someone was drafted, he plays the best players.

  12. Sounds like he fits all the “requirements” to be a patty cake! I really do hope he stays on the right path! I’m curious if the pats will keep drafting guys with “character issues” in the future.. Time will tell.

  13. One is a homicidal maniac, the other is a run of the mill criminal looking for money…

    BIG difference…

  14. I disagree with you last statement. I don’t think any such reliable line exists. You can’t take the most extreme case and extrapolate it to every situation. There are dozens of Hernandez’s in every draft. Maybe they don’t (or won’t again) go as high as Hernandez went, but talent always trumps character. Whether it’s a 7th round flier or an invitation to camp as a free agent, they all get a shot. Shorter leash when new trouble surfaces, absolutely! but not some new insight beforehand.

  15. This is what the Patriots-haters fail to understand.

    From all indications Belichick and Bob Kraft both thought that Hernandez too had changed his life

    By giving him the contract extension they did they were rewarding what they thought was his good behavior and on-field performance, and as some might recall Hernandez was so grateful he donated $50,000 to the Myra Kraft Foundation.

    I think Kraft in particular took pride in helping a troubled youth turn his life around.

    They were all duped by Hernandez. It would be a shame if that prevented others with difficult childhoods from getting a second chance.

  16. Let’s also not forget that although he’s a rookie, Thompkins, age 25, is 2 years OLDER than Hernandez is now.

    That maturity may be the big difference maker as Hernandez was only 20 when he came into the league

  17. People talk like the Pats. are the only team that has players with some past issues. We probably don’t want to know how many players in the league are packin’ heat. There have been other murders,drug abuse,guys beatin the crap out of their wives,girl friends etc. Yeah, the Hernandez thing is a sad affair,that nobody wants to see happen,but don’t even try to convince me that some other team wouldn’t have given him a try.

  18. I’m thinking that Timmy Touchdown is the Anti-Hernandez.

    When AH lays his hands on you, you get murdered.

    When Tebow lays his hands on you, you’re miraculously healed.

  19. si1m says:
    “Clearly they DON’T know. That’s not their fault necessarily, but its patently stupid to say “the Pats know when to go for it and when not go”. No, they don’t. That’s why they’re in the mess they are in.”
    Patriots aren’t in any mess. Hernandez is though.

  20. Nice way to put down a good story of a guy who has left the past behind just because you noticed finally that he may make the pats team.Whatever happened to not putting everyone in the same bucket ?

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