Stephenson’s Thornton ‘holding out’ for teammates

These 14 Stephenson players have either accepted a scholarship offer or is actively being recruited. Photo by Chip Towers.

These Stephenson players have either accepted scholarship offers or are actively being recruited. Included are Tyrone Cornileus (34), Doral White (57), Martin Adebowale (6), Kenneth Ladler (1), Denzel Hartley (15), Raymond Sanders (25), Jabari Johnson (3), Nathan Benford (8), Chris Sharpe (2) and Ronnie Shields (18). Photo by Chip Towers.

Stephenson’s Michael Thornton, arguably the top uncommitted prospect in the state, heads into the season with a giant chip on his shoulder.

Thornton didn’t like the fact that he was left off the AJC’s Super 11 team.

“I feel like I’m the top defensive tackle in the state,” said the 6-foot-2, 280-pound senior, who holds scholarship offers from Georgia, Georgia Tech, Auburn, Alabama and at least two dozen other schools. “But that’s just my opinion; that’s coming from me. So it kind of ticks me off a little bit, yeah. I felt like I deserved to be in there. But it doesn’t mean that much to me. I’m still going to college somewhere. I just want to make sure my team and my teammates get what they deserve.”

DT Mike Thornton runs through a drill Monday at Stephenson. (Towers)

DT Mike Thornton runs through a drill Monday at Stephenson. (Towers)

And so, Thornton said, he’s not in a hurry to make a commitment before the season starts as he once pledged. His plan now is to extend his recruitment into the season, take some visits and have some college coaches come to his games.

“The main reason I’m holding out is I’m trying to bring in all these colleges for my teammates,” said Thornton, whose only definite trip is to Penn State. “I’m trying to help them get what they want and deserve. The guys I feel like have a chance to do something, I want to bring them along with me. That’s the whole point.”

Thornton has plenty of teammates that fill the bill. In all there are at least 16 Stephenson players that are drawing interest from college teams, a dozen from Division 1 schools.

Three Stephenson players have already announced commitments: LB Tyrone Cornileus to Miami, RB Raymond Sanders to Kentucky and DB Kenneth Ladler to Vanderbilt. Cornerback Chris Sharpe confirmed Monday he’s leaning heavily toward Louisville.

DE Joshua Polk, DE Malcom Strong, OL Kevin Billups, RB/DB Denzel Hartley, LB Franchot West, LB Jabari Johnson, WR/CB Nathan Benford and TE Ronnie Shields are being targeted mainly by Big East and Conference USA schools. CB Martin Adebowale, OL Quentin Spencer and OL/DL Doral White are getting looks from the MAC, Sun Belt and Southern conferences.

I made the trek over to Stone Mountain Monday afternoon to get a first-hand look at all these Stephenson prospects and at Thornton in particular. I also wanted to take a picture of all these guys together. The Jaguars’ coaches were kind enough to let me do it with the stipulation that it needed to be quick and not very fussy. So assistant coach Corey Johnson hurriedly gathered up the guys I asked for and I snapped a photo, which you see above.

It wasn’t until later that I realized that Thornton rather notably was not in the shot. My questionable skills as a photojournalist aside, I called him later to find out why.

“To be honest, I feel like my team is getting overlooked, my teammates are getting overlooked,” Thornton said. “I’ve got all I need.”

Attention, that is.

Later I’ll share some more details about Thornton’s recruitment and I’ll also let you know what Stephenson coach Ron Gartrell said about recruiting and the Jaguars’ secret to developing such a deep talent pool.

48 comments Add your comment

Vick=Dog killing thug

August 25th, 2009
7:56 am

Sounds like a nice young man that will hopefully become a bulldawg. No mention of his grades but they must be good to get the offers…. right ?


August 25th, 2009
8:07 am

He is a very impressive young man. Putting his teamates first is the personification of being a teamate.


August 25th, 2009
8:10 am

Mr. Thornton, you will be a great member of the DAWG family. Playing an hour away from your family and friends will be a big plus.

Bank Walker, Texas Ranger

August 25th, 2009
8:28 am

How is this not the top team in the state with this many prospects?

By the way, isn’t the grass long in the photo of Thorton. Can’t see his feet…..he does have feet doesn’t he


August 25th, 2009
8:28 am

Can’t help but be impressed with the unselfishness of this young man. Take your time and enjoy the whole process in a way that will make things better for you. Hope to see you on the “Flats” in the future Michael. Good luck to you and all of your teammates in the upcoming future. Go JACKETS!!!

Dawg Pound

August 25th, 2009
8:51 am


Not Disappointed

August 25th, 2009
8:58 am

Tech or Dawg would be happy to have a man oh his intergrity. Good luck where every you go.

Go Jackets!

Ms. Reality

August 25th, 2009
9:16 am

First @ Vick= Dog killing thug. I’m sure he values his education first before football. Also, I can imagine why you made that comment by looking at the name you are using. Back to something more positive, this young man has a great attitude and continues to show the love he has for his teammates and the game everyday.


August 25th, 2009
9:21 am

He wants to play for the best DL coach in the Southeast if not the nation, Tracy Rocker of Auburn. Should get immediate playing time.

SEC fan

August 25th, 2009
9:25 am

In several interviews he has made it clear that he is strongly leaning toward Auburn. Said it has been his favorite team every since he lived in Columbus. In published interviews, he only mentions UGA and Tech as afterthoughts. Don’t think those schools are even in his top 3.


August 25th, 2009
9:28 am

Michael: The Dawgs want you and know you are a great player! Georgia is the greatest and you would be a life-long Georgia celebrity after playing for the Dawgs and in the NFL!!!

Ms. Davis

August 25th, 2009
9:31 am

“A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions and the compassion to listen to the need of others.”

Some people are born to be leaders, Michael is one of these people. He is an exceptional student athlete who is very humble. I know the families of many of the Stephenson players who are being overlooked by the media until now. DeKalb County School System has produced several athletic scholars over the years. These young men will graduate and represent DeKalb County and the State of Georgia well in the future. I am confident they are destine to be successful and become productive citizens. Good Luck to the Jaguars this season and I wish all the players the very best!


August 25th, 2009
9:43 am


SC Gamecock

August 25th, 2009
9:44 am

Mr. Thornton embodies the essence of being a team player. The Gamecocks would love to have you in SC :-) !

Blue Devil 101

August 25th, 2009
9:46 am

Thornton sounds like a Blue Devil to me….come on we would love to have you!

Just the facts

August 25th, 2009
9:48 am

Mike Thornton will end up at Auburn- wait and see….Tommy Thigpen is a great Recruiter.

'Bama 1

August 25th, 2009
9:48 am

If you want to play for a good team, then go to Alabama. Nick Saban is the best defensive coach in the S.E.C.

Jag Fan

August 25th, 2009
9:52 am

@Vick=Dog Killing Thug: Thornton has over 20 offers and holds a 3.1 GPA. He is a true leader.


August 25th, 2009
10:12 am

I’d like to add that in additioned to being very good athletes, Thornton and each of his teammates are well behaved, disciplined, and respectful to adults. It does not surprise me that his response is not about him, but about his teammates. Now that’s the kind of character any college coach would love to bring to their football program and school. Good luck Jaguars!!


August 25th, 2009
12:04 pm

I like his attitude. Truly seems like a team guy. Good luck with your recruitment.


August 25th, 2009
12:46 pm



August 25th, 2009
1:01 pm

I am very impressed. This young man seems very mature for his age. It is so refreshing to read about someone who looks beyond just himself and is a leader. His team should be proud of him. I look forward to hearing positive things about this young man and his teammates in the future. Great story, Chip!


August 25th, 2009
1:31 pm

I like what this kid is saying. I hope you stay in state to play your college football. I think it will be fun to watch you either as a Dawg or a Yellow Jacket.

Ron Gartrell?

August 25th, 2009
1:31 pm

How is it that all this talent hasn’t produced a state championship? Must be the coaching.


August 25th, 2009
2:16 pm

Hey Denzel, Georgia Tech sounds good. Good Luck. Boy, you are rough on the field.


August 25th, 2009
2:53 pm

Don’t know whatto think of him – is he demanding that others come along with him on scholarship where ever he goes?


August 25th, 2009
3:08 pm

@Flo-Ri-Duh!- What are you reading? He said is not committing because he wants to give some of his teammates an opportunity to get looked at when scouts come see him. This team has great talent but they aren’t receiving media attention. It’s hard to understand because unselfishness is so rare in kids today. He sounds like a good kid!

Ali Akbar Allah

August 25th, 2009
3:18 pm

Stephenson isn’t ranked #1 because everyone knows they will choke at some point in the season. Incredible athletes but piss-poor coaching.


August 25th, 2009
3:40 pm

Young Mr. Thornton needs to realize that scouts and coaches know a lot more about football than he does. He ought to let the snub motivate him- to get better, not bitter. And, about holding out to sign- I hope the college teams don’t get bored with your prima- dona dramatics and lose interest in you. It does happen.


August 25th, 2009
4:06 pm

Unfortunatly, Michael, you were slow on the draw and hadn’t committed to thUGa and Saint Mark yet. Be assured (and let this be a lesson to you) that if you HAD, then you would have been awarded one of the coveted AJC Super 11 positions!


August 25th, 2009
4:16 pm

If a player holds out too long, he may find his offer withdrawn. Too many players have learned that lesson the hard way since early commitments became popular.


August 25th, 2009
5:57 pm

I can see why he would be “movitated”

yea yea

August 25th, 2009
9:24 pm

even if he waits too commit(sign) in may…
he will still have a spot to where ever he wants to go!!
have u not seen this kid play?? its like a grown man playing with kids!!!
and those linebackers look really good also!!!


August 25th, 2009
9:25 pm


Dekalb County Fan

August 25th, 2009
10:10 pm

dw, ali akbar and tiger7_88 you are jerks. This kid is doing what all kids should do and you have stupid crap to say. This is a feel good story i dont care how you feel about stephenson or gartrell keep the negative stuff on the other stephenson stories.


August 26th, 2009
12:00 am

I know this young man personally we are 1st cousins. He deserves the best and I’m not just sayin this because I know him. He is very respectable and he only wants the best for everyone else, I hear it constantly. Good Luck big cuzzo, u deserve it

Big Cuz

August 26th, 2009
12:28 am

I agree with Dekalb County Fan. I am Michael’s big cousin and I have known him all of his life. He is the young man that he portrays to be in this article and it is not out of the ordinary for him to have a response like this. Don’t disrespect his demeanor or his talent. There will always be a great school looking to grab someone like him right up. Its an insult to our family and in particular his mother. We appreciate all the kind words from everyone else :-) No matter who he decides to choose we back him 100%! Keep doing your thing Mack! We love you!!!


August 26th, 2009
1:41 am

Well, we probably won’t get him at UT, but he sounds like a class kid and great teammate.

Chris Thornton

August 26th, 2009
3:03 am

Man this guy (my bruh) is a beast, been a stand up guy all his life, take it from the guy who lived with him all his life, a real humble, respectable, and responsible person. I’m proud to see what you have become you are truly deserving. bad talk or good talk, they all no your name so you must be doing something right, keep it up. Louvale For Life!!!!

NTH Trojans

August 26th, 2009
7:59 am

When I first read the headline, my first thought was ” What a cocky punk”. Then I read the article and realized that this kid is nothing like that at all. He seems to be truly an unselfish person who is putting others before himself. If he were my son, I would print this article, place it in the first page of a scrapbook, because nothing that he will ever do on the field (no matter how great), will ever compare to this act of selflessness. This year I will follow Stephensons’ season, and hope that these boys make it to the Dome. Good Luck, Jaguars.


August 26th, 2009
10:03 am

Enter your comments here


August 26th, 2009
1:14 pm

For those that don’t know this young man he is more than just an athlete. He is a true student-athlete,unselfish,role model,leader,scholar,etc. I could go on and on. Depth chart at potential colleges is important to him,but having the degree program he needs is more important to him. He is the best DT in the state hands down, Made an impact every game.


August 26th, 2009
10:47 pm

mcnairs head coach and the entire staff were let go today . the reason for this was insubordination which is some bullsh#t. they replaced a great man with a spineless coward of a coach named john april who in two yeard as head basketball coach won a …total of 4 games. also ever since he came to mcnair he had it in for coach mo and wanted his job

Uncle Jeff

August 28th, 2009
12:18 pm

Hey Mike,keep on doing what you are doing,and that’s being an great example for your little brother Evan,lil cousin Jordan and others of what a real Man,and Student Ath is really about,that’s Character & Selfless,continue to be the best you that you can be,because it’s not about how many offers you get or even if you’re labeled a Super 11,it’s about being the best you. What the great MLK Jr.said,”If you can’t be a hiway,just be a trail,if can’t be the sun,just be a star,because it isn’t by size that you win or you lose,just be the best at whatever you are!” So Proud of You.

Patricia aka Mommy

August 30th, 2009
12:03 pm

To all of you who have had nothing but great things to say about my son Michael, I commend you for knowing the difference between humbleness and a kind heart which is so often mistaken for arrogance which Mike is not and has never been. Henry and I have always put God first in our lifes and that’s what we teach our children. We are exceedingly proud of Michael and all of his siblings because they put there hearts into whatever task is assigned to them. Michael has always looked out for his neighbor so to speak because he never wanted anyone left out (even if we didn’t have enough popsicles to go around)if it could be helped and I commend him for giving his teammates the kind of recognition that they all deserve and the coaches as well. In commenting on him not being committed to a particular college yet I’d like to say that he is doing his research because he is looking for the best college that’s going to offer him the skills in life as far as education is concerned because if football doesn’t take him to the NFL he will still have that degree that he worked hard for to obtain the career that he also desires. Michael, I just want you to continue to stay focused on God, acedemics then football because what God has for you is for you and no one can take that away. Continue to look to the hills from whence all of your help cometh from. Henry and I are so very proud of you. Know that we (your parents and your siblings) are beside you 100% because God is behind you and He has your back. Pray on and keep pressing on!!!!! Love Mommy:)

Clemson tigers 2013

September 21st, 2009
9:47 pm

well mike is a cool person.MIKE dosent allow people to fail im only in the ninth grade i look up to him as if he was my big brother,mike is real funny,but real serious when its time to get on the field.i wish i had someone in my grade that give confidents to everyone.hopefully i can be like him.its a honor to step on the field with kenny ladler raymond sanders,tyrone cornileus,chris sharpe,and of course big mike.i been around the stephenson program most of my life and these guys work hard.all these guys are like brothers to me we joke laugh and some of us have dat family relationship.mike is a great football play and is unselfish.i hope to fill his shoes someday

York Singleton

September 29th, 2009
12:38 pm

Enter your comments here I saw this young man at the touchdown club of atlanta luncheon
(lineman of the week) 3.1 core GPA and a 1280 SAT

York Singleton

September 29th, 2009
12:39 pm

I saw this young man at the touchdown club of atlanta luncheon
(lineman of the week) 3.1 core GPA and a 1280 SAT