Thompkins shines for Apaches

TJC safety Billy Thompkins.

Weak safety Billy Thompkins missed only one defensive play last week against top-ranked Navarro, but the reliable sophomore couldn’t make it through all of Thursday’s practice due to painful shin splints.

Known medically as tibial stress syndrome, shin splints can be caused by excessive jogging or sprinting.

If that’s the case, Thompkins may have set the wheels in motion by sprinting 25 yards to the end zone for a touchdown off a Navarro interception. It was TJC’s first score of the game, and Thompkins’ first touchdown since his junior year at John Tyler as the starting quarterback.

“(The pain) started at the end of the game and it’s been going on this whole week,” he said.

While Thursday’s practice may have been a downer for Thompkins, he received a quick pick-me-up when told that he’s the Defensive Player of the Week in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference.

The 2009 JT graduate had a busy night in Corsicana with nine tackles, including two for a loss, one pass breakup and the interception return in the Apaches’ 34-22 loss.

Thompkins was ready to give up playing football after high school, despite making first-team all-district as a senior safety. He signed with Kilgore College on national signing day but didn’t even stay two weeks.

“I was disgusted with what happened after high school, with my (test scores) and everything because my dream was (to play) Division I, but that didn’t work out,” Thompkins said.

He returned to his hometown and took a job working in food service at a local hospital when he got a phone call from former TJC assistant George Cumby, who’s now the head coach at Texas College. Thompkins came out to watch practice and the next day he was suiting out as a member of the Apaches.

Thompkins did not play in any games in 2009 -- he said Kilgore did not release him from his scholarship until several games into the season -- so he was redshirted instead.

Last season he suffered a knee injury during two-a-days that kept him out for four weeks, so it wasn’t until late in the year that Thompkins was able to contribute on a regular basis.

As an elder statesman in 2011, the 5-11, 200-pounder has been a fixture for TJC, playing nearly every snap on defense and special teams. He is tied with Jacksonville’s Justin Jones with a team-high 29 tackles and he also has one sack.

“I’m playing pretty good this year. I’m proud of myself,” Thompkins said. “I just hope I can stay on that same path.”

That path led directly to the end zone for TJC’s first touchdown against Navarro after Thompkins outsmarted the Bulldogs’ quarterback, who was looking to throw a quick pass on a hitch route.

“When I intercepted the ball, I didn’t really feel any emotions until after I scored and I realized what I just did,” he said. “I got real excited after that.

"We had practiced all week what we were going to do on that play. I just read it and I jumped it.”

SMOKE SIGNALS: The Apaches (2-1, 0-1 SWJCFC) play No. 9 Trinity Valley (3-0, 1-0) at 7 p.m. Saturday at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium. The Cardinals opened conference play two weeks ago with a 38-20 win over Kilgore. … Navarro wide receiver Marquez Clark is the Offensive Player of the Week in the conference after catching nine passes for 166 yards and two touchdowns against the Apaches.

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