LaGrange’s Thornton ready for challenge

Published 10:37 pm Thursday, February 8, 2018

By Kevin Eckleberry

These days, speaking in front of a group is no big deal for LaGrange High’s Tyrese (Joe) Thornton.

Not too long ago, though, the thought of being the center of attention, of having so many sets of eyes on him would have made Thornton uneasy.

“He was very quiet, and not real sure of himself,” said Dialleo Burks, who was Thornton’s head football coach the past four years. “I later found out he was always the big kid. He didn’t think his size was a plus.”

As Thornton showed on Wednesday, though, he has overcome whatever shyness issues he may have had in the past.

Thornton has also developed into a fine football player, and that’s the reason he and dozens of those closest to him were in the school’s media center on Wednesday morning.

Thornton, an offensive lineman, has signed a letter of intent to play football at Tennessee State University in Nashville.

During Wednesday’s ceremony, Thornton was perfectly at ease in his role as a public speaker, and he said he’s grateful to have this opportunity.

“Thanks to the coaches at Tennessee State for believing in me and recruiting me,” Thornton said. “It feels great to get a scholarship.”

Thornton believes being a part of a team, and eventually being asked to take on a leadership role helped him become more at ease in being in the spotlight.

“I came a long ways from being a shy kid in the background,” Thornton said. “That’s what I’ve been all my life. This year I’ve grown, and now I can talk (in front of people).”

It was a difficult season for the winles Grangers, but Thornton made the most of his opportunity, and he believes the experience will benefit him.

“You have your ups and your downs, and this season we were down a little bit,” Thornton said. “But the thing about having a bad season is it builds character.”

Through it all, the wins, the losses, the good times and the bad, Thornton enjoyed being around his friends and teammates.

“I’m glad that I stayed here all four years instead of leaving,” Thornton said. “It’s a family. This has always been my home.”

One of the men who worked most closely with Thornton is Adam Daigler, LaGrange’s offensive-line coach.

Daigler was new to the staff in 2017, and he encouraged Thornton to step up and be someone his teammates would look up to.

“When I got here, he was very quiet, and it took him about a week before he finally spoke up,” Burks said. “Those that know offensive linemen, they’re very tight and the nucleus of the team. He was a silent leader, but I challenged him to lead the team.

“By week two, week three, I finally said Joe gets it. It clicked. He was over on the sidelines trying to fix his stance, trying to do a little bit more. He was leading the offensive line, and it transfers to today. I’m very proud of him.”