Grayson’s televised season opener on ESPN2 against Tucker was supposed to be a showcase of the Rams’ historically talented class of 2019.
Grayson recruiting coordinator Kenyatta Watson estimated 15 Rams were making the leap to Division I college football, including Nebraska-committed Ronald Thompkins. The three-star running back settled on the Huskers after receiving nearly 20 offers and recanting his previous verbal commitment to Florida State.
On Aug. 25 against Tucker, Thompkins was off to an astounding start in terms of yards per carry. He toted the ball five times for 51 yards, but the fifth carry of his 2018 season was his last.
Thompkins juked a Tucker defender off of his feet and saw only daylight ahead of him. Then he hit the grass with a non-contact injury. He didn’t know it at the time, but he had just suffered his second torn ACL in two seasons.
His first thought was to his future. Would Nebraska drop him?
“That was most definitely the first thing that went through my head, ‘Is everything with Nebraska still OK?’” he said.
It didn’t take long for Nebraska assistant coach Sean Beckton to contact Watson and reassure Thompkins that his scholarship was still intact.
“Once I got into the locker room and checked my phone, they were already sending me messages about how they were going to be behind me throughout the situation 100 percent,” Thompkins said.
That reassurance was not only a weight off of the young running back’s shoulders, but it also reassured him he had committed to the right place.
It also allowed him to focus on the road to rehabilitation that was ahead of him.
Thompkins had played six games and tallied more than 400 yards in his junior season before suffering the same injury. He set goals to try to meet his recovery benchmarks faster than before.
Roughly four months later, Thompkins is on schedule. He is back to running. He’s still trying to regain strength in his repaired knee and hasn’t moved onto cutting or moving laterally yet.
“Everything is playing out smoothly,” he said. “I’m just looking forward to getting up to Nebraska and seeing what they’ll do with me.”
Thompkins could find out how Nebraska will utilize him soon. He is one of two running backs in Nebraska’s 2019 signing class — including 2018 Grayson opponent Rahmir Johnson from Bergen Catholic (N.J.). Starting running back and 2018 leading rusher Devine Ozigbo is an outgoing senior. Thompkins will likely be competing with rising sophomore running back Maurice Washington, who tallied more than 480 yards on 77 carries.
Thompkins was one of 13 Rams that signed a national letter of intent to play college football on the first day of the early signing period on Wednesday. He has no hesitation when it comes to facing the upcoming change in his life.
“It’s a chance to go somewhere different, see some new faces and meet new teammates — experience new things,” Thompkins said.
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