I got to hang out for a good while with defensive tackle Mike Thornton Wednesday afternoon over at Stephenson High School. Well, we weren’t just hanging out. AJC photographer Jason Getz was putting “Big Mike” through the paces of one of his always-thorough photo shoots and I took advantage of the time we had for what turned out to be a revealing one-on-one interview for this Sunday’s recruiting package.
Anyway, it was fairly widely reported on Wednesday that Thornton had narrowed his many choices down to three schools, Georgia, Kentucky and Penn State. In fact, I mentioned it myself in Item No. 10 of the Ten at 10 Wednesday morning.
Well, it’s not true. Thornton has not narrowed it down to three schools, though those three are among his finalists. In fact, after being able able to sit down with Thornton and go over each school one-by-one, I determined — more accurately, we determined together — that a week before signing day he has “narrowed” his choices down to 10.
That’s right, 10. He’s still in double figures.
Said Thornton of where he may end up: “I can honestly say I do not know right now. It’s a family decision and we’re going to make it together.”
For the record, the 10 schools are (in no particular order, Thornton stressed): Georgia, Auburn, Georgia Tech, Miami, Penn State, Kentucky, Florida State, N.C. State, Tennessee and Southern Cal.
Later I went over the schools with Thornton again.
“Out of those schools I could easily sign with anybody and feel comfortable with my decision,” he reiterated.
So why did I report earlier he was down to three? Here is the absolute full disclosure on that:
I was talking to Thornton via cell phone Tuesday night, firming up Wednesday’s plans and just asking a few general questions about his recruitment when he told me he had canceled his scheduled visit to USC. He was just starting to explain that decision when the phone went dead (Mike gets some bad service at home sometimes but I found out from him later Wednesday that his phone did, quite literally, go dead. Battery gone.).
Anyway, I tried to call him back two or three times to no avail. But I thought to myself, “oh well, I’ll talk to him tomorrow.” I figured at least I’d gotten the tidbit that he’d dropped the USC trip for the next morning’s Ten at 10.
Come Wednesday morning, I’m busily putting together the daily Ten at 10 and just got to the Thornton note. As always, I did a quick Internet search to make sure I wasn’t missing anything new on him when I came across a report at UGASports.com that Thornton had narrowed his choices to Georgia, Kentucky and Penn State. The story cited only “a Stephenson assistant coach” but Kipp Adams is usually on top of all things Bulldog, so I figured I’d better check it out.
The problem was it was during school hours at that point and I’m not going to call a kid while he’s in school. But everybody knows that Corey Johnson is the Stephenson assistant coach that handles recruiting for the Jaguars and, seeing how they’re going to have about 16 signees this year, I’ve gotten to know Coach Johnson quite well. So I hit him with a text asking if Thornton had in fact narrowed it down to those three choices Kipp was reporting.
“Yep,” was his almost instantaneous reply.
Good enough for me. I also got Johnson to verify the USC news while I had him engaged and that was that.
Then came our time together Wednesday. I asked Thornton about his decision to cut his choices down to those three schools. “I haven’t,” he said. “I don’t know where all that came from.”
I went on to tell him what happened and that led us into a conversation about the craziness that is recruiting and how much misinformation gets out there. We talked about recent reports that he had eliminated Auburn all together. “Nah, man,” he said. “I was just talking to them today.”
So I figured I better get the story behind the Southern Cal cancellation on the record. Thornton told me he did in fact cancel the trip — “I just don’t have the time,” he said — just like he canceled the Auburn and Miami trips earlier this month. But, Thornton insisted, that doesn’t mean he is no longer considering those schools.
“I don’t have to take an official visit to sign with a school,” he said emphatically. “I could just get up and go to that school because I’m going to know the background about the school, the coaches at that school and what’s going on at the school. I wouldn’t have a problem with that.”
So there you go, straight from the source.
For more about the long, intense and extensive deliberation that has been Thornton’s recruitment, be sure check out Sunday’s recruiting spread.
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