Tompkins heeds his late mother's advice

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:40 AM ET

Heeding some of the final words from his mother, Tony Tompkins took her advice and returned to the Edmonton Eskimos.

"I talked to her a few weeks before she passed and she told me she wanted me to come back if anything happened," said Tompkins after yesterday's practice.

"She was a big, big fan. She never missed a game (on TV)."

Tompkins lost his mother - Tangela - to colon cancer last Tuesday.

After returning to Texas to bury her last weekend, the Eskimos kick/punt returner came back to practice yesterday.

Missing the club's win in Montreal, he will be back on the field on Friday against the Toronto Argos at Commonwealth Stadium.

"I always did dedicate my football seasons to my mom but it is going to mean more to me now that she has passed on," continued Tompkins, a third-year Eskimo.

"I am just going to try to make her proud."

To the naked eye watching practice yesterday at Clarke Park, Tompkins seemed relatively fine.

At one point, he was even joking around with a defensive back. But behind closed doors, Tompkins is leaning on current teammates - like Trevor Gaylor and A.J. Gass - and ex-teammate Toby Zeigler to help him through the healing process.

It was just last year that Gass lost his mother.

"We are here to lift each other up and we do that in any way, shape or form," said Gass, who spoke with Tompkins yesterday.

The oldest sibling in the family, Tompkins has also spent the last several days trying to comfort his 16-year-old younger brother.

"He took it pretty hard," continued Tompkins, 24. "It really hurt me to see how down he was."

Just like Tompkins is trying to support his family, the Eskimo brass has quietly been supporting their No. 14 in every way possible. Head coach Danny Maciocia didn't ask Tompkins to play last weekend in Montreal, nor did he force his hand to return.

"It has been really tough on him," said Maciocia. "I wouldn't want anybody to tell me when to come back."

The Eskimos even paid for Tompkins' flight home last week, but didn't say a word about that.

"I tip my hat to the organization," remarked Tompkins.

If the diminutive returner is able to play a key role with the club in the drive to the playoffs, it will be a touching story on the heels of a heart-wrenching September.

WELCOME RETURN

Tompkins' return to the club comes at an ideal time as receiver T.J. Acree could be out three to four weeks with a foot injury. Acree suffered the injury while returning a punt in Montreal replacing Tompkins.

The preliminary report from an MRI on the damaged foot is in, but the club is still waiting for a more definitive word, according to Acree.

Hobbling around on crutches, the first-year Eskimo now has problems with both feet. For weeks he has been dealing with a stress fracture on the top of the other foot.

The Eskimos still have another two days of practice to determine who will fill Acree's spot in the receiving core, but Quentin McCord is the likely replacement.


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