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October 11, 2012

Thompkins evolving as pass rush specialist

Robert Morris defensive end Chris Thompkins knows how important preparation is on and off the football field.

Coming off a disappointing loss last Saturday to St. Francis (PA), Thompkins pointed out the extra energy in practice Wednesday.

"You practice like you play," he said.

Thompkins, the 6-foot-1, 260 pound accounting major from Rochester, New York, chose Robert Morris over several SUNY schools in part because the academic programs are "really good here." Now a junior, he is finding himself the odd man out on the starting defensive unit with a deep defensive line, but he likes his role as a pass rush specialist. He's second on the team with two sacks.

"I love the pass rush and getting after the quarterback. I love it because it's an easy role, you have one job to do," he said. "You're like a bull and you have that red spot on the quarterback and your only job is to get him."

Thompkins comes into the game when fellow defensive lineman Steve Mitchell or Nolan Nearhoof (both seniors) are winded, or on obvious passing situations. Thompkins said he knew when committing to Robert Morris both Mitchell and Nearhoof were a year ahead of him eligibility wise and they would probably be starters the next three years.

"Nolan and Mitch, they're good players, so me being behind them doesn't bother me," he said. "I've got to do my job here. My role is what it is and I'm going to fulfill it."

That does not mean Thompkins is content with not being a starter. He said he knows next year he's going to get a chance to start and is ready to show off all assets of his game. He wants to prove that he can stop the run, too, and said size will not get in his way.

"I might be undersized by my weight but I've got a lot of heart. I'm not scared by any lineman of any size," he said. "I've always been undersized at defensive end but I'm a pass rush type, so being undersized might be a benefit to me. I feel like I can win battles on third and longs when linemen have to kick out and try and handle speed."

Thompkins said at the beginning of games he usually feels tight and it normally takes him a few plays to loosen up and get a feel for his lineman. After he is loose and understands the tendencies of the lineman he's going against is when Thompkins really starts to go.

"If they're kicking out far I go to my spin move and if they're not kicking out enough I just beat them off the edge, simple as that," he said.

Understanding the game is something Thompkins considers an advantage. Thompkins said he's been playing the game since he was six and said he knows a lot about the game and is comfortable in the defense.

Playing on both sides of the ball in high school (he was a tight end and fullback), Thompkins knows that playing stout defense is only half the battle.

"My attitude is: lets get the offense the ball back. As a defensive player, that should be everyone's attitude. I'm a ball hawk and I want to get anyone who has the ball," he said.

There are no more games at tight end or fullback for Thompkins anymore, and that is something he is fine with. On defense, there is only one goal, and that is to get the person with the ball.

"I really like to hit," he said.

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