I spent much of the second and third rounds over at the open thread on this site (which was a great time with Evan Sidery and I trying to sound intelligent) and we spent most of that time speculating who the Colts might draft.
With Quinton Patton, Marcus Lattimore, Barrett Jones, Jesse Williams, and others still available, I was ecstatic. And then Tarik Glenn made the pick (announcing it as the "Super Bowl 41 champion Colts" pick), he announced Hugh Thornton, offensive guard, Illinois.
My first reaction: "umm, what?"
But then I started reading about him and hearing what others had to say about him. My initial reaction on him was that he is a good player who fills a big need for the Colts. But there's so much more to him than that.
My reaction after I read about him some: "Dang... this guy has been through a ton."
You see, when he was a kid his parents divorced. Then in 2004, his mother and sister were murdered, and to add to all of that he was later abused by his father. After that he moved to live with his aunt. In 2009, he was arrested for underage consumption and later was caught using a fake ID.
But Thornton didn't let any of that get him down. The two time Idaho state heavyweight wrestling champion in high school, Thornton played 42 games (starting 35) for Illinois, playing at left guard and then being moved to left tackle his senior year because of other players the coaches wanted to get on the field as well. His best (and most natural fit) is guard, and he certainly has a real chance to start at left guard for the Colts next year.
Thornton isn't the best player you could get at the position, but he is a very physical and athletic guard who could help the Colts, especially as they transition to a power run game.
Look, I would have rather the Colts drafted any one of the three players I mentioned earlier (Patton, Lattimore, Jones). But I must say that Thornton isn't a bad pick. The value may not be the greatest, but even then the third or fourth round was where he was projected to go. The 6'3, 320 pound guard participated in the Senior Bowl and had an impressive Combine, probably prompting Ryan Grigson to study him further.
Many fans won't like this pick. It was very funny to see the reaction on the open thread. I wrote "wow. wait until you hear this pick," and then shortly the pick was announced. The reaction was immediate, and it was very funny. It was of confusion and of disbelief. But that has more to do with who was still available there, not with the type of player that Thornton is. And I think that it's much more important to focus on the player whom the Colts did draft instead of the ones that didn't. And when looking at that, Thornton isn't a bad pick.
The Colts offensive line is much improved from where it was last year. At left tackle, Anthony Castonzo is a real good player. Now Thornton comes in at left guard, and he will compete with Joe Reitz and Jeff Linkenbach for playing time - and I'd give Thornton an early edge, but then again Grigson doesn't like playing rookie offensive lineman. At center will be Samson Satele (although it should be A.Q. Shipley...), and at right guard it will probably be Donald Thomas with Mike McGlynn backing him up. And then lastly, Gosder Cherilus at right tackle - a very good pass blocker. I'm actually feeling pretty good about that line right now.
Regardless of whether Thornton will start next year or not, he has starter potential in the future. And in the present, at worst he provides very valuable depth (especially with some injury prone players there). He has already overcome incredibly challenging situations in his life - what's to say he won't overcome any challenges on the field as well? (which obviously pale in comparison)
Recently, Hugh Thornton was asked by a local Idaho paper where home was - seeing as he was forced to move around as a child and eventually ended up living with his aunt. He replied, "wherever I'm at."
Hugh Thornton has found a home in Indianapolis. It's a great town and he will be playing for a great franchise.
And he gets to protect the best young quarterback in the league. I think he's up to the challenge. He's been up to every other one he's faced.