Thornton joined the Eagles as a rookie free agent. He earned a spot on the 53-man roster after the final roster cutdown, but was then released and placed on the practice squad. The 309-pounder has now been promoted to the active roster for the final three games of the regular season after wide receiver
Playing college ball at Division II Southern Arkansas, he was considered to be one of top sleeper prospects in the draft. Some draft experts believed that he could have been selected in the first four rounds. Unfortunately for Thornton, NFL teams did not agree.
At the conclusion of the draft, the 6-3 defensive lineman found himself without a team and unable to sign as a free agent because of the ongoing lockout. Thornton spent the entire summer working out and waiting for his opportunity to sign somewhere.
"It was hard to go undrafted, because of the lockout. I just wanted to play," he said. "I was just looking for a chance to get my foot in the door.
When the lockout did end, the Eagles were one of a handful of teams that immediately offered the talented pass-rusher a contract. Thornton was a two-year starter at Southern Arkansas where he earned first-team All-American honors as a junior after leading his squad with 80 tackles and 8.5 sacks.
"I picked Philadelphia because I thought that I would fit their scheme and because of (defensive line coach) Jim Washburn," Thornton said. "I talked to him on the phone and he sounded like a guy I would really want to play for and lay it all on the line for.
"When I signed that contract, I packed up all my clothes. I knew I’d need them in Philly because I had no intention of being sent back home."
Thornton drew praise throughout training camp, going from unknown among fans to one of the most talked-about overachievers on the team. When it came time for final roster cuts to be announced, Thornton’s name was not on the list.
"When I originally found out that I had made the 53-man roster, I was at the high-point of a rollercoaster, real high," Thornton said.
He had made the 53-man roster as an undrafted rookie, an impressive feat. However, his exhilaration turned to disenchantment in a matter of hours.
"I woke up the next morning, and received a call from (general manager) Howie Roseman. He told me that the team had released me," said Thornton. "It was hard, but I took solace in the fact that I knew God had put me in this position for a reason. I received some offers from other teams at that time, but I knew I wanted to stay here in Philly."
A major factor in his decision to stay with Philadelphia was the connection he had with fellow-defensive tackle
"I really look up to Cullen," said Thornton. "Coming out of college, a lot of people compared the two of us because of our style of play. I wanted to use this opportunity to learn all that I could from him. He’s been working with me and helping to motivate me. That’s true of all the guys. I always have an ear open to any advice those guys are willing to give me."
He worked hard to keep his spot on the practice squad, and tried to impress coaches when he was given opportunities. Thornton’s talent shone through in his 13 weeks on the practice squad and led to his most-recent promotion.
The rookie tackle would love to follow in Cullen Jenkins’ footsteps, but, for now, would surely be happy just to earn a safe spot on the Eagles active roster.
"In the NFL, you never know when someone’s going to go down, so you always have to be ready to step in" he said. "I just want to try to be as effective as the other guys on the team have been at my position."
It remains to be seen whether Thornton will be active for any of the team’s three remaining games. With his impressive skill set and blue-collar attitude, Eagles fans shouldn’t have to wait long to see him on the field in midnight green.
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