Thompkins, Mensah could offer 1-2 punch for UConn football

Published on Friday, 8 March 2019 20:40
Written by Neill Ostrout

Journal Inquirer

STORRS - Art Thompkins knows what it’s like to share an offensive backfield.

As a redshirt freshman tailback at Toledo in 2016, Thompkins shared the ball with a rather successful back named Kareem Hunt, a senior with the Rockets who was then a year away from NFL superstardom.

Now, as he begins a one-year stint with the UConn football team, Thompkins may be asked to share again. And he’s fine with that.

The graduate transfer also is glad that his new teammate, incumbent Husky back Kevin Mensah, is comfortable with his arrival.

“That’s a tough position. You’ve been a successful guy - Kevin had a nice season last year, 1,000 yards - and they bring in another transfer,” Thompkins said after the Huskies’ practice Thursday morning in the Shenkman Center. “A lot of guys could have been like ‘Wow! What’s going on? What am I not doing?’ But he’s only like ‘Let’s go. Let’s help the team. Let’s up the team first and let’s win.’ ”

Thompkins says he and Mensah are learning from each other during the team’s ongoing spring practice and believes the two will complement each other well in the upcoming season.

UConn head coach Randy Edsall feels the same.

“You gotta have two tailbacks,” Edsall said. “And they’re good for each other. They make each other work.”

For Thompkins, a 5-foot-8, 180-pound native of Pittsburgh, it’s a chance to help the Huskies rebound from a handful of horrid seasons. UConn was 1-11 last season, failing to beat a single FBS opponent.

Already emerging as one of the team’s leaders, Thompkins says he’s seen some impressive performances by his teammates and the team as a whole during their offseason workouts.

“Obviously the guys want success,” Thompkins said. “They’re just trying to be better. They don’t want to be mediocre. They don’t want to be complacent. Guys are buying in.”

Thompkins ran for 1,427 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns in three seasons of play at Toledo, while also adding 34 receptions. It’s the latter area where it seems the Huskies hope to utilize Thompkins frequently.

“They’re kind of using me more diverse, using my receiving ability,” Thompkins said. “It’s just allowing me to do more things.”

With Zavier Scott, Donevin O’Reilly and Khyon Gillespie all recovering from injuries, Thompkins is getting plenty of repetitions this spring to impress his new coaches.

“He’s been very, very productive in the practices and the one scrimmage we had,” Edsall said.

But it’s Thompkins’ off-field attitude and ability that has impressed the coaches even more, it seems.

“Art’s one of those guys that just has a personality about him where he knows how to fit in. He’s been an outstanding leader since he’s been here,” Edsall said. “That was one of the reasons we wanted him here. Not just because of the productivity we think we can get out of him but also form a leadership standpoint.”

Even in an era of college athletics where transfers are becoming more prevalent and players often join teams mid-year, Thompkins’ acclimation has been quite smooth.

“Art is a good key for us. He brings a lot to the table and will be a good threat for us,” quarterback Marvin Washington, the Huskies’ No. 1 signal-caller this spring, said. “He came in here with an instant attitude ready to work.”

Thompkins credits the other Huskies with making his transition rather easy.

“It was just those guys taking me in from day one, just giving me a lot of support, love and energy,” Thompkins said. “They made me feel like I’ve been here forever.”

Posted in The Bristol Press, UConn on Friday, 8 March 2019 20:40. Updated: Friday, 8 March 2019 20:42.