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Perseverance has Thompkins' career back on track

There was a point not too long ago where Ronald Thompkins’ coaches and teammates weren’t sure if he would ever play a snap as a Nebraska Cornhusker.

Once one of the nation’s top-rated running back recruits in the 2019 class, two major knee injuries during his junior and senior high school seasons derailed Thompkins’ promising career.

The recovery process lingered on into his freshman season at NU last year, where he eventually took a redshirt to focus on his rehab. As a result, the former Loganview (Ga.) Grayson standout became an afterthought in the Huskers’ 2020 backfield conversation.

That was until this past week, at least.

It's been a long road to recovery for Ronald Thompkins, but he's now back in Nebraska's running back mix.
It's been a long road to recovery for Ronald Thompkins, but he's now back in Nebraska's running back mix. (Associated Press)

Head coach Scott Frost, running backs coach Ryan Held, and a couple of his teammates all praised the work Thompkins had put into getting back onto the field following his injuries.

Not only that, Thompkins has now put himself squarely back into the running back mix going into this season.

“We were a little worried about his health,” Frost said of Thompkins during his monthly radio show. “He's had to have a knee surgery since he's been here, and we didn't know how well he'd be able to hold up. But man, he's shown flashes of being really good."

Held said the 5-foot-11, 195-pound Thompkins was finally looking like the player Nebraska hoped he’d become during the recruiting process.

While his injuries kept him rated as just a three-star prospect, Thompkins held offers from Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Oregon, Penn State, and USC before ultimately choosing NU.

While the coaches are being very careful about managing Thompkins’ workload to avoid any setbacks, they’re also giving him the chance to finally show what he can do.

Nebraska’s running back room is crowded with young talent but is also wide-open behind senior Dedrick Mills because of that inexperience. If Thompkins can stay on the field, Held thinks he’ll have every chance to be a factor in NU’s run game this season.

“Ronald's he's been through a lot now, and there was a point where you never knew if he was going to be able to come back, and he's really persevered,” Held said. “He's really fought through some adverse times, because he was as talented as anyone in America coming out of high school, and whether he would play or not, nobody knew. But he's really relied on his perseverance.

“He's had good days and bad days, just like anybody going through that process, but I've been very impressed with him. He's had a really good attitude, and there's a motivational aspect of it that we have to do, just to be talking on a day-to-day basis.

“We got to be smart with his reps, but I do think that he's a guy that can help our football team. I'm pushing him just like I'm pushing all these other guys.”