From Boise to the NFL, Hugh Thornton overcame all odds

Credit: Jay Tust/ KTVB

From Boise to the NFL, Hugh Thornton overcame all odds

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by Jay Tust

Bio | Email | Follow: @KTVBSportsGuy

KTVB.COM

Posted on May 9, 2013 at 11:49 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 5 at 9:40 AM

BOISE -- When the words were uttered by former Indianapolis Colts offensive tackle Tarik Glenn at the 2013 NFL Draft, Boise-native Hugh Thornton sat and watched. Hanging on every word that came out of Glenn’s mouth.

"With the 86th pick," said Glenn, before pausing. "The Indianapolis Colts select Hugh Thornton."

"I was finally a professional football player," Hugh said with pride. "A culmination of all my hard work and all the adversity that I had overcome in my life."

How Hugh got to this moment is another story. The long, troubled journey started before he could really even remember. His parents split up when he was four. His mother moved him to Jamaica. It was there a harrowing scene changed his life.

"I was 12. It was January 2, 2004. I was sleeping down stairs," Hugh recalled. "My mom and my sister were upstairs," he continued, "I heard my aunt scream. I went to see what had happened and I walked in the room and my mom was tied to the bed and had been murder and my sister was on the floor.”

"It was an ex-boyfriend of my moms and they had split. He went back to propose, she said no and the situation was he was kind of living off of my mom - didn't work a job or anything like that," Hugh said. "So, once all that was taken away when they split, he kind of had resentment and came back with vengeance and the intent to kill."

"They tried him and it went to trial, but because the way the Jamaica government works, it’s very lenient towards Jamaican nationals in cases against non-Jamaica nationals," he shaking his head. "It's a little bit corrupt in that sense, and so, after about six months of trial, the charges were dropped against him.”

"For the longest time, I was just angry at everything and everybody."

Understandably so.

The tragic event would force yet another life changing moment. Hugh moved back to Boise to be with his father, Mark Thornton.

The conflict in his life was just beginning.

"It was rocky," said Hugh about his relationship with his father at the time. "The outcome of dealing with all those issues at 12-years-old resulted in me getting into fights at school and skipping class."

"With some of the people he was hanging out with and some of the things that they were doing, I was like 'I don't want you doing that type of stuff,'" explained Mark, who added he was more strict that Hugh's mother. "To keep him from failing, that was our pursuit."

"I just didn't really want to be (in Boise)," Hugh said.

So he moved away, leaving his father for a second time in his life.

"The day that I took him to the airport was probably one of the worst days of my life," said the emotional father. "It was also like I've failed at as parent."

Prior to his senior year at Mountain View High School, Hugh went to live with his aunt in Ohio.

"I chose to go to Oberlin High School, which was my mom's Alma Mater. So that kind of played a factor in my decision of schools," said Hugh. "I got my high school diploma the same place my mom got her high school diploma. Part of that decision made me feel close to my mom."

The move was a good one. He thrived at Oberlin. He led the football team to its first winning season in 50 years, and ended up receiving a full-ride scholarship to the University of Illinois.

As a college freshman, Hugh had a slip up. He was arrested following a bar fight after he used a fake ID to get it. He says it was at the moment he realized he need to completely change the way he was living.

It was at the same time his father reached out once more, and the two mended their torn relationship.

"I never quit my pursuit of trying to be his dad," said Mark.

"I always knew that he was there," acknowledged Hugh. "I just ignored him for a long time."

With his struggles behind him, Hugh became one of the better offensive guards in college football. By the time his junior year rolled around, he realized that a life as a professional football player was attainable.

On April 26, 2013, that dream became a reality.

"To have his work validated with the 86th pick of the draft is absolutely fabulous," said Mark with a smile.

"Once it happened, immediately I knew that my mom was there with me and my sister was there in the spirit and were looking out for me the whole time," said Hugh. " It's such a gratifying feeling to know that you have pretty much guardian angels looking out for you."

"At the end of the day, he was probably a mama's boy and probably still is," Mark said. "That he could turn it around and make the most of the opportunity - regardless of what it cost him to get the opportunity -  he's definitely making the most of it and making his mom proud and his dad.

"It's not a burden anymore,” said Hugh about his past. “It's an opportunity to share my story with kids that are in my situation or have similar circumstances that I did and just to be a beacon of light for those kids."

"My work in Idaho isn't done."

Mark Thornton talks about the kick flip.

Hugh Explains preparing for the NFL Draft.

 

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