No tall tales from Texan kick returner

GERRY PRINCE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:36 AM ET

Tony Tompkins might be stretching things by claiming he's five-foot-eight.

Although the 22-year-old Texan is fudging his height in the Edmonton Eskimos' training camp guide, Tompkins isn't short on is grit.

If he were, the Stephen F. Austin product wouldn't be auditioning for the role of the Esks' punt returner.

The job opened up after free agent slotback/kick returner Winston October didn't re-up with the team, opting instead to leave the three-down game in favour of gainful employment in New York, New York.

"With the wide field, that will give me lots of room to make moves, make people miss and get down the field," said the 165-pound Tompkins, who is competing with fellow non-imports Chris Kelley and Keyou Craver for the vacant job.

"I never had room quite like this.

"The field is wider, longer and it gives me a chance to beat someone to the outside with the extra yards."

Following a stellar high-school career, Tompkins moved on to college where he lined up at the wideout and running back positions. Add Tompkins's returning skills and he's a collegiate version of Thomas Haskins.

The acid test insofar as Tompkins's return abilities will be the Esks' pre-season game versus Winnipeg at Commonwealth Stadium.

"It's going to be interesting to see how he lines up and how he does June 10," offered head coach Danny Maciocia.

"From what I understand, he had a great career returning kicks and punts in college.

"Nine or 10 were actually called back because of a flag or some foul on the play."

October was heralded as the second coming of Gizmo Williams when he signed with the Esks in 2001. However, after absorbing a punishing blow during the '03 season, October appeared to lose his edge.

Tompkins, meanwhile, took his licks in college and kept on ticking. That isn't likely to change any time soon.

"If you get hit one good time, some people might lose their edge," Tompkins said. "If you love the game, you just get up and try again."


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