There is never a shortage of roster moves in the Arena Football League. Players come and go. And sometimes they come back.
Brandon Thompkins is wearing a Spokane Shock uniform again after spending several un- pleasant months with the Utah Blaze. Spokane knew what it was getting on the field when they traded for Thompkins in May. He joined the Shock late in the 2011 season and hauled in 76 catches for 907 yards and 26 touchdowns last season.
It’s outside the lines, in team meetings, film study and his general approach to the game, where Thompkins has done some of his best work. That wasn’t always the case in his previous stint with the Shock.
“He’s matured a lot, he’s more hungry than he’s ever been in his life, more focused,” head coach Andy Olson said. “He knows how important this stuff is and he went through some bad experiences in Utah. It’s almost like he’s getting a second chance.”
Thompkins felt he didn’t get much of a first chance with the Blaze, Spokane’s opponent Friday at the Arena.
“I felt more like an outcast with the receiver group,” said Thompkins, who had 27 catches in four games with Utah. “What really made me want the trade is they set me down (benched) for two weeks and I didn’t really know why and it wasn’t a great explanation why.”
The Shock were dealing with injuries at receiver and the possibility of losing Kamar Jorden to the NFL when they dealt Josh Ferguson (who had been released by Utah a week before the trade) and reserve defensive lineman Julian Miller for Thompkins.
Thompkins soon moved into the starting lineup and has had at least four catches in each game. He had nine receptions for 111 yards in last week’s loss to No. 1 Arizona.
“He has a lot of speed and he’s a big playmaker,” quarterback Erik Meyer said. “He’s a guy that can stretch the field.”
Thompkins didn’t hide the fact he wasn’t happy in Utah, nor did he hide the fact that he wanted to return to Spokane.
“It was really up to them to trade me wherever, but I really forced the issue,” he said. “I wanted to go back to where I called home and where I was comfortable playing the game.”
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Thompkins seems comfortable on and off the field.
“I feel like I’ve matured in the game and as a person, too,” he said. “I feel like I came in more focused and I can be more to the team than I was last year.”
He’s looking forward to facing his former teammates.
“I’ve very motivated,” Thompkins smiled. “Words can’t even explain it.”
For the second straight week, it appears Spokane will line up against a former Shock quarterback. Nick Davila led Arizona past Spokane on Saturday. Jason Boltus, who appeared in one game with Spokane last season, made his first AFL start in Utah’s victory of Jacksonville last week and figures to get the nod Friday against the Shock.
Boltus is the eighth quarterback with Shock ties to start on other AFL teams this season. That list includes Davila (Arizona), Kyle Rowley (Orlando, Jacksonville), Bill Stull (New Orleans), Steven Sheffield (Pittsburgh), Brian Zbydniewski (Cleveland), R.J. Archer (Jacksonville) and J.J. Raterink (Iowa).
That list doesn’t include ex-Shock players Jason Murrietta, who has appeared in six games as Davila’s backup, and Andrico Hines, who signed with Cleveland in late May but was released five days later. Former Idaho Vandal Brian Reader, who attended a Shock tryout, is Raterink’s backup. Raterink was in training camp with Spokane in its inaugural season in 2006 before being traded to Bossier-Shreveport.
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