The Herald Bulletin

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May 10, 2013

Colts Notebook: Thornton honors past, focuses on future

INDIANAPOLIS — None of the 37 players at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center had to overcome more tragedy before pulling on an Indianapolis Colts helmet than rookie offensive guard Hugh Thornton.

As a 12-year-old in 2004, Thornton was asleep downstairs in his mother Michele’s house in Jamaica when she and his eight-year-old sister Marley were murdered in an upstairs bedroom.

The boy blamed himself for not being able to protect them for a long time and bounced between homes with relatives in Idaho and Ohio. All the while, he was growing into a star football player who eventually signed to play at the University of Illinois.

Thornton’s journey included a pair of arrests while he was playing with the Fighting Illini before he learned to channel his anger in a positive direction.

When the Colts made him their third-round selection in last month’s NFL draft, he was surrounded by family and friends in a Boise, Idaho, restaurant. Video of the celebration has become a YouTube sensation.

On Friday in his new locker room, Thornton said he often thinks about his past while focusing on his future.

“In life, you have a lot of adversity and you reach a fork in the road where you can either go the right way or you can go the other, which is the opposite way,” he said. “You’ve got to make a decision, and once you make that decision you run with it.”

Thornton’s decision has been to honor Marley’s memory through his actions on and off the field. And that has made all the difference.

“I do it for my sister,” he said. “I’ve got four sisters, and that’s my mom’s legacy pretty much. I’m just out here representing for my family, and I’m enjoying it while I’m doing it.”

Thornton is expected to compete for a starting spot along the Colts’ remodeled offensive line this season.

On Sunday, he’ll complete the team’s three-day mini-camp with memories of Michele fresh in his mind.

“There’s no better way to celebrate someone than through achievement,” he said. “I’ve made it here, and I’ll be practicing on Mother’s Day, and my mom is going to be proud looking down on me.”

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