These days, Trevor Tompkins is a 6-foot, 200-pound senior at Skyview High School, set to be one of the region's top track athletes this spring and a college football player next fall.
That's why it's so hard to believe that when Tompkins stepped on the football practice field as a freshman, it was the first time he tried organized sports, other than a stint on a track team in seventh grade.
"When he went out for football, my thoughts were, 'I hope he plays on the JV squad and I hope he doesn't get hurt,'" said Maria Tompkins, who is Trevor's mother. "I was really surprised the coach was so impressed with him."
Tompkins did play on the junior varsity, and varsity head coach Wade Marcuson was so impressed with Tompkins that he told the player after the season that he had the chance to make varsity as a sophomore.
"It wasn't until the end of my freshman year that I realized that I could actually do something with my athletic ability," Tompkins said.
That realization went on to affect Tompkins in a number of ways.
For starters, he started to become more serious about school.
"In eighth grade and middle school, I never really concentrated on my grades," Tompkins said. "I'd always been able to get by.
"It wasn't until I started doing sports that I actually started trying to get good grades."
The attention to academics has paid off handsomely for Tompkins, who has a 3.5 grade point average at Skyview. He will go to Valley City State University in Valley City, N.D., on an academic and football scholarship.
By excelling as a student, Tompkins also showed he had the dedication it would take to capitalize on his athletic ability.
"You can tell a lot about what kind of an athlete a kid is going to be by how that kid does in the classroom," said Rob Sparks, a football and track coach who had Tompkins for three years in social studies and history.
"Work ethic and dedication are things you can't turn on and off depending on whether you're in the classroom or on the athletic field.
"Trevor takes pride in the quality of his work and he's inquisitive, which makes him a good learner. Those things are important in school and sports."
As a sophomore, Tompkins used those traits to start at guard and inside linebacker on the varsity. He played alongside steady senior Stryder Reilly at linebacker and learned a tremendous amount from him.
"Trevor has a nose for the football, and he knows how to deliver a good impact when he gets to the football," said Sparks, who was Tompkins' defensive coordinator for three years. "When one-on-one drills are going on in practice, Trevor's one of those kids that a lot of players don't want to be lined up against."
Tompkins, who started lifting weights after his freshman year of football, was second team all-conference his sophomore and junior years. This year, he was second team all-state and first team all-conference.
Tompkins, who also played guard and strong receiver on offense, will play middle linebacker at Valley City State.
"Football has done a lot for me," Tompkins said. "I started doing track because of football, and football also made me a lot more disciplined in the classroom.
"Plus, I'm a really competitive guy, so I really loved playing the game. And now, I get to go play football in college."
Maria Tompkins also agreed the sport had made a huge difference in her son's life.
"After seeing what he could do in football, he realized what he could do when he set his sights high," Maria said. "That carried over to his studies, and he's very dedicated in both areas."
Tompkins, who was born in Maine and moved to Alaska with his mom and father, Steve Tompkins, when he was 6, also has turned himself into a nice track athlete.
"He didn't have much track experience when he came in, but that also meant he didn't have any bad habits," Sparks said.
As a junior, Tompkins took first in the triple jump and 300-meter hurdles and took second in the 110 hurdles to help Skyview to its second borough track crown.
Tompkins qualified for state in both hurdles events, and took sixth at the state meet in the 110 hurdles.
"I started doing track to make myself a better football player," Tompkins said. "I've started to like it more and more.
"I like seeing how far I can push myself, and I also like the competitiveness of it."
Apart from being a good athlete and student, Tompkins, who also is in the National Honors Society, is respected by his peers for being a good guy.
"I look to him when I'm having problems with anything," said senior Kevin McGrady, who, along with Tompkins and senior Kaleb Shields, will help give Skyview a formidable hurdling crew. "I feel comfortable talking to Trevor about problems, and it's that way with everybody in our group of friends."
Sparks echoes those comments.
"He's a quality kid," the coach said. "The stereotype is that many top athletes are superficial, but Trevor's not that way.
"He polite, modest and kind, and that makes him well-liked by other kids."
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