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Hugh Thornton, the guard recently signed by the Redskins, looks like more than just a camp body

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This may not be simple roster churn

NFL: Indianapolis Colts-Training Camp Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

An NFL veteran

Hugh Thornton was on the roster of the Indianapolis Colts for 37 games, with 32 starts, over his 4 years in the NFL, from 2013 to 2016. He came to the Colts via the draft, selected in the 3rd round in 2013. He started 12 games as a rookie, eight games in 2014, and 12 games in 2015, but he wound up on injured reserve at some point in each of the 2014, 2015, and 2016 seasons.

In 2016, he missed the entire season due to injury.

Coming off of the lost 2016 season, Thornton was a free agent, and signed with the Falcons. Thornton was piecing together a career for himself as a professional NFL lineman. According to OverTheCap, he earned over $3.7m playing for the Colts on his rookie contract, and was set to earn another $690,000 with the Falcons in 2017.

But then he abruptly retired from pro football.

Sporting News reported it at the time:

After battling ankle, knee and shoulder injuries during his first four NFL seasons, Hugh Thornton has decided to walk away while he still can.

The offensive lineman has decided to retire from the NFL at the age of 25, and less than two months since joining the Falcons as a free agent.

The 6-3, 320-pound Thornton played in just 10 games, with eight starts, in 2014 and was placed on injured reserve prior to the playoffs. His 2015 season was also truncated because of injuries and he was placed on IR after 13 games. An ankle injury cost Thornton the entire 2016 season and he left the Colts via free agency.


Click this link to watch an interesting video of Hugh Thornton talking about his return to the NFL


Thornton was born in Idaho but raised in Jamaica before his mother and sister were murdered when he was 12. He moved back to Idaho, where he was a state wrestling champion, but moved to Ohio for his senior year. He was an All-Big 12 selection for Illinois in 2012 and started 35 games for the Illini.

The Falcons expected Thornton to compete for a starting job on the offensive line.

Return to Pro Football

Coming back from his abrupt retirement ahead of the 2017 season, which Thornton says he needed in order to focus on his health — “physical, spiritual, emotional... everything” — Thornton says that he now has his head and body back where they needed to be,

He began his comeback by signing with the Arizona Hotshots of the Alliance for American Football (AAF). His tenure there was short-lived, not because he played badly, but because the league folded.

That comeback now moves to Washington.

Training Camp with the Redskins

The Redskins may provide an outstanding opportunity for Hugh Thornton, who has seen more than his fair share of injury while playing for three professional football teams since being drafted out of Illinois six years ago. The 28-year-old, after all, has on-field experience at the NFL level, with the added benefit of life experience that hopefully brings a certain level of maturity with it.

Thornton spoke to reporters in an on-field interview at the end of a recent training camp session, saying:

I kept training, kept putting one foot in front of the other; God answered, and I got the opportunity. All I wanna do is work and help the team succeed any way I can.

One might suspect that Hugh Thornton will be more appreciative than most of that opportunity, given the things he has been through.

NFL: Washington Redskins-Training Camp Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Thornton told reporters that he is fully healthy now, and ready to do everything possible to make the team and help the Redskins. He spoke about his athleticism, savvy, energy, passion, and grit when asked what he wanted to show the coaches during training camp. He described being in camp and being coached by Bill Callahan as an “exciting opportunity to learn from one of the best.”

Interior Offensive Line competition

Looking at the Redskins options at guard, it seems to be a mixed bag. Of course, the team invested two mid-round draft picks to select guards Wes Martin and Ross Pierschbacher back in April.

They also have Ereck Flowers, the former first-round draft pick of the Giants who played with Jacksonville last year, trying to successfully resurrect his pro career by making the switch from tackle to guard. Flowers may or may not have a roster advantage based on his ability to play the tackle position.

The other players on the depth chart are veterans: Zac Kerin, who was part of the multitude of players to see game time for the Redskins last season, Tony Bergstrom, the backup guard/center who has been a Redskin since October of 2017, and Jerald Foster, the college free agent out of Nebraska.

As a 4th-year player, the Practice Squad isn’t an option for Thornton, so it seems to be all-or-nothing for him as far as the Washington roster is concerned. He’s likely to get a fair shot at the roster, but with both Bergstrom and Pierschbacher having the ability to back up center Chase Roullier, Thornton probably has to beat out Flowers, Kerin and Foster to make the 53-man roster as a guard. It’s a big ask for a veteran who wasn’t part of OTAs, mini-camp or the first week of training camp, but Hugh Thornton seems like a man who is ready to take on the challenge.

Poll

Who is most likely to make the final 53-man roster?

This poll is closed

  • 31%
    Ereck Flowers
    (583 votes)
  • 2%
    Zac Kerin
    (54 votes)
  • 64%
    Hugh Thornton
    (1190 votes)
  • 1%
    Jerald Foster
    (30 votes)
1857 votes total Vote Now