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Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Thompkins constantly reminded of PSU

By Josh Moyer

De'Andre Thompkins may go to school at Swansboro (N.C.), but he can't make a turn in the hallways without being reminded of Penn State.

A Nittany Lion emblem is the classroom screensaver of his math teacher, Ed Walsh, and a PSU jacket is hanging nearby. A history teacher, health instructor and his football coach also either grew up as Nittany Lions fans or went to the university.

Heck, even a custodian inside the red-brick school chats up with Thompkins about PSU and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"As soon as I got that Penn State offer, they started coming out," Thompkins said with a laugh. "Even those in the background, like Albert [the custodian], love to talk about football."

The 6-foot, 170-pound athlete -- whom PSU is mainly looking at as a wideout -- has become a hot recruiting commodity among schools along the east coast. He already holds nine offers from the likes of Georgia Tech and West Virginia, and he's hearing from Clemson and South Carolina.

But he's constantly reminded of Penn State. He'll joke around with Walsh, who doubles as the basketball coach, about the university. Before National Signing Day, he also chatted several times with PSU headliners Adam Breneman and Christian Hackenberg.

He even cut his Thanksgiving break short so he could make a nine-hour drive to Happy Valley to see the campus, meet the coaches and watch the Wisconsin game. Months later, he still thinks back to that visit.

"Penn State's always that school that most people never get to see in their lifetime; it's just one of the biggest stadiums and the best fan bases ever," he said. "I still get love from some of the fans there. I just love that place.

"You can't really put it into words when you're on a big campus like that, and you hear all the people screaming at the football game and you see the student section jumping and getting crazy."

Despite his interest in PSU and the bombardment of all things Penn State, he's not ready to name the Nittany Lions -- or any other college -- his favorite. He's hoping to go on a few more visits and weigh more pros and cons before concocting a top five.

Thompkins figures he'll probably come up with his short list right before his senior season starts. From there, he'll just commit whenever it feels right. As long as he boasts a good relationship with the staff, the coaches have pledged to stay put, the academics are strong and the fan base is big -- Thompkins said he's interested.

Penn State is able to check off many boxes on that list, but one move that probably didn't work in its favor was the departure of his recruiting coach there, Ted Roof. The defensive coordinator left for Georgia Tech and is now his main contact for the Yellow Jackets.

At Penn State, wide receivers coach Stan Hixon has taken over his recruitment. Thompkins said the two are a lot alike, and they've been building up a strong relationship since Roof left on Jan. 9.

"He's just like Roof -- down to earth, he relates to you, and he wants to know more about you and not just what you do on the football field," Thompkins said. "He had my family have a great connection. He's just a great person."

Thompkins knows he probably won't have to wait long before someone at Swansboro asks about Penn State. But he also doesn't feel pressured to choose the school. Everyone's just hoping he finds a place where he feels comfortable ... but, of course, it wouldn't hurt if that school just happened to be located in Pennsylvania.

"They love the Nittany Lions, but they also want what's best for me," he said. "My main goal is just to graduate from a college I feel is the best choice for me. I want to be successful, not necessarily as a football player, but as a person and a student."