STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Wide receiver DeAndre Thompkins went back and forth with Penn State cornerback John Reid throughout the fall and winter, asking his friend when he’d be ready to finally go back into Holuba Hall at all hours of the day and night to train with him.
“He’s coming back full force, you don’t have to worry about that,” Thompkins said this week.
It’s been almost one year since Reid sustained a season-ending knee injury that threw a wrench in Penn State’s plans in the secondary but ultimately made the group better suited for the long haul because of the depth it established last season without the starter. While the knee injury was what Reid’s friends thought was a bad April Fool’s joke when he told them last year on April 1 that he’d be sidelined for the season, what he gained during that time off the field has him poised for a comeback that will take center stage this fall.
Thompkins has had a front row seat for every step of the return thus far.
“Anybody who gets hurt there’s that moment where you’re down and you wish you were out there, wish you were doing this, wish you were doing that, but Reid is one of those guys that once he understood he was out he took the mental role and the mental aspect of everything,” Thompkins said. “He was watching film constantly, telling me about my routes and what the cornerback does and stuff like that. What he had lost physically he’s gained mentally — and that’s one thing he’s always had an edge over most people on our team. He’s just mentally way more developed and way more in tune with himself.”
Reid’s return and the development of cornerbacks Amani Oruwariye and Tariq Castro-Fields last season is why Lamont Wade’s quickest path to helping the team came in the form of a position switch to safety. Wade’s ability fly around and break on a speed route so far during spring ball left Thompkins impressed — even if the receiver beat himself up a bit for perhaps giving it away.
With all the pieces getting lined up back there and Reid ready for his return, count Thompkins among those who is waiting for the cornerback to get back to his old ways. They’re both better for it.
As Penn State went through practice indoors on Wednesday evening Reid was on the sideline not sporting any kind of knee brace, taking it easy this spring much like many of Penn State’s veterans who the staff doesn’t have any reservations about. Thompkins, entering his final season, has his reps limited as well this spring as the staff tries to learn more about the younger receivers while not subjecting Thompkins to any unnecessary risks at this point.
When Thompkins is out on the field his goals for the spring remain the same: Improve his blocking and work on fighting for the contested catches. He’s ready for the day when Reid will be the corner lining up opposite him, the two friends going back and forth like they’ve done countless times before.
“Every time I get to bug him about something (I do) and he’s always bugging me too,” Thompkins said. “We’re always trying to get better and with him being an elite defensive back and me being a receiver it’s always a challenge to come out and work with him and do the best I can. We’ve been going here in and out every once in a while, but I’m not trying to bug him with his injury or set him back so we kind of temper what we’re doing.”