For this evening edition of the Colts Notebook, we'll be taking a look at a couple intriguing draft picks, Hugh Thornton, and John Boyett, whom Chuck Pagano colorfully described last week as a "buzz saw."
6th round safety John Boyett, who used to play alongside Eric Dungy at Oregon, represents another low risk, late round gamble by the Colts front office. In rounds 4-7, teams often take chances on small school guys, players with maturity issues or bad measurables, and guys whose draft stock has plummeted due to injury. In Boyett’s case, it was the latter.
A star on Oregon’s defense, Boyett had a brilliant 2011 campaign, despite playing on two bad knees. Then, just a game into last season, he decided to have the surgery he needed and repair the torn patellar tendons in his knees.
Interestingly, the Colts originally had no official plans of meeting with Boyett at the combine in February. According to GM Ryan Grigson, Colts Area Scout Dave Razzano pulled Boyett aside and brought him in to talk with the staff during a short break between scheduled meetings with other draft prospects.
As Head Coach Chuck Pagano puts it, they met him by chance. “I’ll tell you what,” Pagano said of the young safety, “you watch this guy play, he’s a buzz saw. He’s a downhill guy. He loves to play. He loves special teams. He’s a guy that, again, we grabbed him at the combine just by chance. He was standing there, we grabbed him and pulled him in. We didn’t have him for a formal, we had a few minutes in between, and this guy just blew us away in about a two-minute interview. You could tell that this guy was very, very passionate about playing this sport, playing football, and what he could bring to the table. So I feel good about John (Boyett).”
Yep. Buzz saw. Coming from a fiery guy like Pagano, any comparison to a potentially dangerous power tool should be viewed as a high compliment.
Boyett is one of the many football players who tend to play through injuries when it may not be the best decision for their long-term health, but he is realistic about how it affected him. “Yeah, I played through it my whole junior year,” he said of playing hurt. “It was very difficult at times but it was probably my weakness was being able to play through them and I wish I would have been able to take care of the issues before it got to that point.
“I wanted to play football and I wanted to leave it all on the field for my teammates and the team that I played for and the coaches that coached me. So it bit me in the meantime, it bit me in the butt. It’s just the middle of the road right now and I’m hoping to finish things strong and I’m ready for this opportunity.”
Chuck Pagano, who has taken admirable caution at times with player injuries (Josh Chapman comes to mind), believes his rookie safety could be ready by training camp, and added, “We’ve got to protect John Boyett against himself because part of the deal, he loves to play, he loves the game. He’ll play hurt, so he was his own worst enemy. He wouldn’t tell those guys the pain he was feeling, he just played right through it.”
Football players are generally tough people, but toughness can make a person short sighted. Sometimes they need their coaches and medical staff to step up and look out for the player’s well-being, and the Colts will do that for Boyett.
Time will tell, but this kid has the potential to be a very good addition. If John Boyett makes the team and contributes on special teams, it’s a good pick. If he is able to do much more than that, it will prove to be another smart gamble.
As the Colts prepared to go on the clock for the third round of the 2013 draft, fans sat and waited, dreaming of what cornerback, wide receiver, or even safety they might draft. The pick came in…Illinois Guard Hugh Thor – wait, what? Hugh Thornton? Who is Hugh Thornton? It’s okay. He may not have been on many fans’ radar, but, hey, neither were T.Y. Hilton and Vick Ballard.
We have learned since that Thornton, a natural guard who played out of position at left tackle last year, is one tenacious blocker. He’s quick on his feet, has good strength, and he played very well against Big Ten competition.
“I like that our whole entire staff has really had big grades on him since August,” GM Ryan Grigson said of Thornton. “This was a guy that played left tackle this year for Illinois at a high level. I thought he was the most dominant guard of the Senior Bowl.
“Really is a great fit as a guard, but started at four different positions except center for Illinois. He really represents all the traits that you could want at the offensive guard spot: size, power, aggression, production, and constant finish. The way he plays excites you and it’s kind of, as an offensive lineman, he can set the tone for how the game is meant to be played.”
While it’s important to temper expectations, the film of Thornton playing in college (videos near the bottom of this link) do tend to give hope that he will be able to compete for a starting job or, at the very least, provide high quality depth – something that’s been missing of late – along the Colts’ oft-injured offensive line.
Thornton is pretty excited himself, joining a team fairly close to home (he’s from Ohio) and reuniting with his former offensive line coach, Joe Gilbert, who now holds the same position with Indianapolis. “I think that’s just God looking out, putting me in the right position,” he said. “I have a great relationship with Coach Gilbert and I’m excited to work with him in the future.”
A former high school state champion wrestler, Thornton was asked if he uses anything he learned from wrestling while playing football. He didn’t hesitate. “Probably discipline, hard work and endurance,” Thornton said. “The main thing that it taught me was composure. My coach in high school, Coach Laughlin, he was an Olympic trial coach back in the day and one thing that he taught me is just perseverance, persistence and dedication.”
Aside from looking like a potentially good find on film (a.k.a. YouTube videos), Thornton sounds like the type of levelheaded hard worker the Colts team, and fans can get behind. Time will tell what kind of player he will become, but in May, we can dream.
One final note on Indy’s third rounder, for anyone who didn’t see it several times last week, when he was asked what is the first thing that comes to mind when he hears the word “Colts,” Hugh Thornton quickly answered, “I think of champions, World Champions.” Yeah, I like ol’ Hugh already.
And you can stop by and like our Facebook page, for article links, updates, and other Colts-related content.