STORRS - Art Thompkins knows what it‚Äôs like to share an offensive backfield.
As a redshirt freshman tailback at Toledo in 2016, Thompkins shared the ball with a rather successful back named Kareem Hunt, a senior with the Rockets who was then a year away from NFL superstardom.
Now, as he begins a one-year stint with the UConn football team, Thompkins may be asked to share again. And he‚Äôs fine with that.
The graduate transfer also is glad that his new teammate, incumbent Husky back Kevin Mensah, is comfortable with his arrival.
‚ÄúThat‚Äôs a tough position. You‚Äôve been a successful guy - Kevin had a nice season last year, 1,000 yards - and they bring in another transfer,‚ÄĚ Thompkins said after the Huskies‚Äô practice Thursday morning in the Shenkman Center. ‚ÄúA lot of guys could have been like ‚ÄėWow! What‚Äôs going on? What am I not doing?‚Äô But he‚Äôs only like ‚ÄėLet‚Äôs go. Let‚Äôs help the team. Let‚Äôs up the team first and let‚Äôs win.‚Äô ‚ÄĚ
Thompkins says he and Mensah are learning from each other during the team‚Äôs ongoing spring practice and believes the two will complement each other well in the upcoming season.
UConn head coach Randy Edsall feels the same.
‚ÄúYou gotta have two tailbacks,‚ÄĚ Edsall said. ‚ÄúAnd they‚Äôre good for each other. They make each other work.‚ÄĚ
For Thompkins, a 5-foot-8, 180-pound native of Pittsburgh, it‚Äôs a chance to help the Huskies rebound from a handful of horrid seasons. UConn was 1-11 last season, failing to beat a single FBS opponent.
Already emerging as one of the team‚Äôs leaders, Thompkins says he‚Äôs seen some impressive performances by his teammates and the team as a whole during their offseason workouts.
‚ÄúObviously the guys want success,‚ÄĚ Thompkins said. ‚ÄúThey‚Äôre just trying to be better. They don‚Äôt want to be mediocre. They don‚Äôt want to be complacent. Guys are buying in.‚ÄĚ
Thompkins ran for 1,427 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns in three seasons of play at Toledo, while also adding 34 receptions. It‚Äôs the latter area where it seems the Huskies hope to utilize Thompkins frequently.
‚ÄúThey‚Äôre kind of using me more diverse, using my receiving ability,‚ÄĚ Thompkins said. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs just allowing me to do more things.‚ÄĚ
With Zavier Scott, Donevin O‚ÄôReilly and Khyon Gillespie all recovering from injuries, Thompkins is getting plenty of repetitions this spring to impress his new coaches.
‚ÄúHe‚Äôs been very, very productive in the practices and the one scrimmage we had,‚ÄĚ Edsall said.
But it‚Äôs Thompkins‚Äô off-field attitude and ability that has impressed the coaches even more, it seems.
‚ÄúArt‚Äôs one of those guys that just has a personality about him where he knows how to fit in. He‚Äôs been an outstanding leader since he‚Äôs been here,‚ÄĚ Edsall said. ‚ÄúThat was one of the reasons we wanted him here. Not just because of the productivity we think we can get out of him but also form a leadership standpoint.‚ÄĚ
Even in an era of college athletics where transfers are becoming more prevalent and players often join teams mid-year, Thompkins‚Äô acclimation has been quite smooth.
‚ÄúArt is a good key for us. He brings a lot to the table and will be a good threat for us,‚ÄĚ quarterback Marvin Washington, the Huskies‚Äô No. 1 signal-caller this spring, said. ‚ÄúHe came in here with an instant attitude ready to work.‚ÄĚ
Thompkins credits the other Huskies with making his transition rather easy.
‚ÄúIt was just those guys taking me in from day one, just giving me a lot of support, love and energy,‚ÄĚ Thompkins said. ‚ÄúThey made me feel like I‚Äôve been here forever.‚ÄĚ