Tiny Texan learning to love wide-open space

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:39 AM ET

Itty Bitty stole the show, but Ezra Landry of the Montreal Alouettes wasn't the only little guy making big plays in the Edmonton Eskimos' 32-29 loss at Montreal last Friday.

Tiny Tony Tompkins, no giant at five-foot-eight and 165 pounds, lugged a Damon Duval punt 93 yards for his first CFL touchdown in the fourth quarter after Landry hot-footed it to the house twice - 125 yards on a Sean Fleming field goal attempt and 74 yards on a punt.

22-YEAR-OLD ROOKIE

While Tompkins is still learning the CFL game and getting used to the wide-open spaces north of the 49th parallel, the 22-year-old rookie from Texas is proving to be a quick study.

That's big.

"I'm getting the hang of it," understated Tompkins. "At the beginning of the pre-season, I was kind of shaky on the rules, but, after practice, going through it and getting game experience, I'm understanding it.

"Special teams are a real big part of this game. This game is all about field position with the size of the field. You don't want to have your offence put in a bad situation."

Tompkins will be back waiting for pigskin to fall from the sky Friday as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers come calling at Commonwealth Stadium.

His quick-six capability gives coach Danny Maciocia the dimension of having a game-breaker.

"He's returned one now," said Maciocia. "He feels like, probably, every time he touches the ball he's got a chance of taking it to the house.

"You go into training camp, that happened to be a big question for us. Do we have the answer from within or do we have to go out and get someone? We think we've got the answer here in Tompkins.

"I think as we go along, he's going to get better. He's still trying to get a feel for the no-yards and the width of the field. He definitely understands the length of it now, because he almost ran out of gas."

Tompkins was a kick return specialist at college in Texas. He returned three kicks for touchdowns last season before signing with the Esks as a free agent May 19.

EXTRA YARDS

Adapting to the bigger field, having a 12th man to beat and the CFL rulebook is what's posing the challenge for the diminutive speedster.

"The hardest part was making it all the way down the field," smiles Tompkins about the extra real estate. "For me, it's the width of the field. You have extra yards to get to the outside and beat your opponent.

"That's what I'm here for - to score. Like every returner, I'm just trying to go out there and make it happen for my team."


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