Tim Laspada never has to worry about choosing between Nintendo or PlayStation. He can just watch game tape of De'Andre Thompkins.
"I can recall a play against Croatan where we're down and we need to have a touchdown," said Laspada, who is in his 10th year as football coach at Swansboro High School in North Carolina. "He has six kids within I'd say two feet of him, and he makes all six miss. I still don't know how. Then he goes down the sideline for a 90-yard touchdown.
"He's like a video game."
Penn State is going to the next level with Thompkins. The 6-foot, 175-pound speedster, who projects as a slot receiver and kick return specialist in college, made a surprise verbal commitment to the Nittany Lions after he, his father and Laspada took in the Blue-White Game on Saturday afternoon in University Park.
"Going in, I had the mindset that I wouldn't commit to a school until the end of my senior football season. Going to Penn State, it just felt right," Thompkins said. "The staff is incredible. What Bill O'Brien is doing with the offense, what Coach [Stan] Hixon is doing with the receivers, even the guys they are bringing in, like [quarterback] Christian [Hackenburg], and trying to build a program with is something special.
"I wanted to be a part of that, and be a part of it as fast as I can."
Thompkins counted North Carolina State, North Carolina, Tennessee, South Carolina and West Virginia at the top of a list of 13 schools along with Penn State to offer scholarships. That list also included Notre Dame, Georgia Tech and Clemson and was rising rapidly, with schools like Florida and Georgia checking him out recently.
The reason is simple. Thompkins, who is thinking of majoring in kinesiology, runs a 4.41-second 40-yard dash and was the state silver medalist in the 400-meter dash last season at 49.45 seconds as a sophomore. Thompkins, though, knows what to do when he has a football in his hands - he took five of 11 kickoffs to the end zone, rushed for 1,359 yards and 10 touchdowns as a running back in the Pirates' double-wing offense, caught four passes for 96 yards and another score and even threw a TD pass.
"His skill set is unbelievable," Laspada said. "He has great intangibles, great athletic ability, quick feet, runs his routes great, and, as a person, he brings a whole lot to the table. Our coaching staff has been blessed to have him on our team."
Laspada has seen exceptional talent before - he was an assistant coach with a high school team that included future NFL top draft pick Mario Williams.
"I would rank De'Andre right there with him," Laspada said.
Thompkins says he's told his playing style reminds people of that of his favorite player, Percy Harvin. Thompkins, though, has been told by his father, Shawn, not to try to emulate anyone, but to follow his own path.
Shawn Thompkins is a Marine from Pensacola, Fla. who has taken his family from his home state to Mississippi and Georgia as well as two stops in North Carolina. It was the elder Thompkins that got De'Andre started in football at the age of 5, and his values have been passed down to his son and show in the way he approaches the game.
"It's kind of hard to describe how big a part discipline has played in my family as I was growing up," the younger Thompkins said. "That's all you have. It's getting it done the right way. If you're not doing that, you aren't doing it at all."
Both Thompkins grew up fans of University of Florida football. A recent call from the Gators gave recruiting analysts reason to believe Thompkins would take more time picking a college.
"You can only smile to know that you're talking to someone from the coaching staff of your favorite team. I was like a little kid in a candy shop," Thompkins said.
"That felt great. But, at the end of the day, it had to be what was right for me and what fit, what I liked as a college."
That, he said, was Penn State. The Lions were one of the first schools to recruit him, and he's already gotten close with a number of Penn State players, recruits and recruiting targets.
"It's just a great place to be. Great people, a great fanbase and an overall great place," Thompkins said.