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Penn State Football: DeAndre Thompkins Brings Something New To Punt Return Game

by on September 12, 2017 2:45 PM

In its most basic form there are few things more terrifying than returning punts. You can hear the entire field rushing towards you. There is no ambiguity about where the ball is going as soon as its snapped. It's coming for you, and so is everyone else.

Oh, and you're looking up towards the sky. There's no getting out of the way of this train, and no guarantee that the rules of football will keep anyone from removing your head from your shoulders as the ball reaches your hands. Just hope that everyone is going to play with sportsmanship in mind today.

And then it's time to run. Away mostly. From there it's football and something far more familiar. But before that, it's a four second prayer. It takes a special kind of player to sign up for that.

DeAndre Thompkins is that special player for Penn State, and for the first time in a very long time the Nittany Lions have a return threat to go with so many other weapons.

That doesn't mean Thompkins has always been fearless.

"I had that feeling at first when I was first returning punts," Thompkins said of that brief moment of terror. "All I can say is really, just grow up. Getting hit is part of the game. It happens to everybody. Everybody gets their shot. So you've just got to realize that it's going to happen. You've just got to make a play regardless. It's kind of one of those, the ball is in the air and you're like, if I get hit, I get hit, and if I don't, I'm going to try to score a touchdown."

So far Thompkins has done just that. The fifth best return average in the nation at 22.57 yards a punt also includes a long touchdown return to open Penn State's 2017 season. It's a moment more than two years in the making as Thompkins became more and more confident in his abilities.

"I first started returning punts in like the Buffalo game," Thompkins added. "I kind of had a good punt return in that game, so I had the highs. Then I muffed punts and getting hit in a game, as well, kind of like puts into perspective the best of the best and the worst of the worst. And then just growing up with experience, you kind of learn, all right, like bad things happen, and then good things happen. So you've just got to go out and make the best of your opportunities."

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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