Hugh Thornton has gone through a lot of adversity to get to the NFL. And I mean genuine adversity; not the cliched “adversity” you hear from college football players and in “coachspeak.”
During his childhood, Hugh Thornton saw his parents get divorced, his mother and sister murdered while visiting them in Jamaica and he had to move in with his aunt after being abused by his father while living with him in Idaho. He made this move his senior year of high school across the country to Ohio.
I don’t mean to sound all Les Miserables, as last night was actually a joyous event.
Former Illinois OL Hugh Thornton was selected by the Indianapolis Colts in the 3rd round (86th overall) of the 2013 NFL Draft. He’ll be reunited with Coach Gilbert on the Colts and join former Illini CB Vontae Davis in Indy. (You might have read about Vontae Davis recent Twitter flap a couple months ago.)
When I joined Hugh Thornton on conference call, he had not had any contact with Vontae; and their Illini careers did not overlap at all. However,
“it’ll be cool to be teammates with a former Illini,” Hugh Thornton said.
“Jeff Allen and some of the older guys on the team knew him and talked about him, and I’ve met him a few times when he came back to school,” Hugh Thornton.
Allen, a Kansas City Chiefs OL, plays with former Illini OG Jon Asamoah now in K.C. Their unit markedly increases in strength as this draft’s #1 overall pick was Eric Fisher, OT out of Central Michigan.
Other current Illini OL in the NFL include David Diehl of the New York Giants, Brandon Moore of the New York Jets and Jack Cornell of the New York Giants.
As you obviously know, this was THE OL draft. It certainly was not sexy. It was a very boring draft, starting right at the top with 3/5 first picks being OT. However, it says a lot about Hugh Thornton, to go this high in a draft FILLED with blue chip OL prospects.
“I have a ton of respect for everyone who plays offensive line, because battles in the NFL are won in the trenches. So to be taken so highly in the draft, with so many great athletes left on the board, is an honor,” Hugh Thornton said.
Not all of Thornton’s college football problems were misfortune; some were self-inflicted. Hugh was arrested for underage consumption in Champaign in 2009 and attempting to use a fake ID a few months later. In addition to the off-the-field issues, he also had a couple scary injuries. So he’s come through a lot to get here.
As you know, Illinois was beyond horrible at football in 2012; going 2-10 and getting BLOWN OUT in every Big Ten conference game. On a very unwatchable team, the offensive line stood out as the worst unit. And trust me, it’s difficult to stand out being bad on a team this bad. So for an Illini to get drafted this high; especially an Illini OL, it really is a true testament to Hugh’s talent.
The Colts have drafted other Illini recently; Jeff George #1 overall in 1990 and Kelvin Hayden in the second round of 2004.
Thornton started the Illini’s final seven games at right tackle in ’09; moved to weak-side guard for eight starts in 13 games played as a sophomore, then started 10 more games there in 2011, missing two games with a leg injury. When Tim Beckman took over, he moved him to left tackle in 2012 to have the best lineman doing the most important job.
Now Hugh Thornton will go to Indy to block for franchise signal caller Andrew Luck.
“He’s an incredible quarterback and a little different than the scrambling quarterbacks I played with at Illinois.”
Paul M. Banks is the owner of The Sports Bank.net, an author and regular contributor to MSN, Fox Sports , Chicago Now, and Walter Football. Banks has appeared on Comcast SportsNet and the History Channel, as well as Clear Channel, ESPN and CBS radio all over the world.
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