When Ryan Grigson labeled the 2013 NFL Draft as a ‘trench-draft’, a player with a wrestling state championship on his resume falls right along with the general manager’s assessment.
Hugh Thornton captured the 2008 Idaho Wrestling State Championship at the heavyweight division and then moved to Ohio during for his senior year, where he placed third.
Wrestling has taught Thornton discipline, hard work and endurance but there is one particular trait that sticks out in his mind.
“The main thing that it taught me was composure,” Thornton said of wrestling. “My coach in high school, coach Laughlin, he was an Olympic trial coach back in the day and one thing that he taught me is just perseverance, persistence and dedication.”
The singlet has been turned in for shoulder pads but Thornton is still battling in the trenches.
Over the course of four years, Thornton started at least eight games at three different positions for Illinois.
Offensive guard seems to be the position that Thornton will get his first crack at with the Colts and Grigson had the third round draft pick labeled as the most dominant guard of any at the 2013 Senior Bowl.
“I’m just overjoyed that I got this opportunity and I’m looking forward to getting in there for OTAs and rookie minicamp, busting my tail and competing,” Thornton said late Friday evening.
Even though the Colts did not bring Thornton in for a pre-draft visit, the offensive guard has a previous connection with the team’s coaching staff.
Colts offensive line coach Joe Gilbert recruited Thornton and was his position coach at Illinois from 2009-2011.
During their time together, the Fighting Illini offensive line paved the way for school records in total points and helping running back Mikel Leshoure rush for a school record 1,697 yards in 2010.
The two have stayed close over the past few years and Gilbert actually worked Thornton out at his pro day last month.
After Gilbert joined the Colts last season, the two will now be reunited after some helpful advice from teacher to pupil during the past few weeks.
“I talked to coach Gilbert and obviously I was getting stressed over the draft,” Thronton said.
“(Gilbert) told me, ‘Don’t worry about it. Just keep you head up, stay focused and be ready to work whenever your name is called.’ To know that I get to work with him and the Colts organization is so incredible. It’s kind of surreal right now.”
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