UNT linebacker Thornton relishing opportunity
Matthew Suarez for the North Texas Daily
In 2017, Amarillo native Chris Thornton committed to the University of North Texas to play football. It all started with North Texas’ head coach Seth Littrell personally recruiting Thornton to play linebacker as he had taken a liking to his build as a football player along with his athleticism.
“I think he’s a big body that can run and hit,” Littrell said. “He was pretty athletic and was hard for [offensive] tackles to handle which made him a mismatch for them.”
During his high school days at Palo Duro, Thornton was a first-team All-District 3-5A selection at defensive end in 2015. During that season he amassed 98 tackles, 10 sacks, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. Thornton kept the ball rolling his junior year by being named as a first-team All-District 3-5A pick for the second consecutive season. He also tallied 108 tackles with 47 of them solo and 25 for loss as a senior. One of the primary reasons Thornton chose to commit to UNT originates with Littrell.
“I felt like he was a real dude, he said what he meant and he stood on it,” Thornton said. “I could just tell he had great character and I could trust him.”
The Palo Duro product was redshirted his first season with the Mean Green and did not see the field the following season in 2018. Through August so far, the Mean Green are in midst of fall camp to prep for what appears to be a season with high expectations. Thornton plans to use this preparatory camp to earn playing time wherever he can.
“Fall camp has been good so far,” Thornton said. “I’m trying to focus and lock in and learn the playbook so I can get on the field and play my position at outside linebacker. I’ve also been working with coach [Marty Biagi] with special teams so I can showcase my talents there as well.”
Thornton admitted that the transition from high school to college was a big adjustment. He will have a new position coach this year in Galen Scott who was hired shortly after former UNT linebackers coach Jeff Koonz departed for the same job with Ole Miss.
“[Scott]’s brought a lot of great attributes to the linebacker room and he gives everybody a shot to showcase their abilities,” Thornton said. “He also puts out a lot of knowledge and tools, stuff that really works.”
Despite the coaching change, the redshirt junior still looks to continue his progression as a collegiate football player with UNT. With this being a new year, with a new coach, Scott’s first impression of the 6-foot-1, 220 specimen was his size. Scott said Thornton stood out and made a point that Thornton needed to keep working hard on the field and in the weight room to earn time on the gridiron..
“I meet him, and [Thornton’s] a big kid, he looks big and strong, we call him ‘Amarillo’ since that’s where he’s from,” Scott said. “He’s got to continue to grow and continue to learn, that was my first impression and that’s still my impression.”
The Mean Green kick off their season at home against Abilene Christian on Aug. 31.. Thornton not only hopes to make an impact on the field to represent UNT but he hopes that his play will bring more attention to his hometown.
“[Representing Amarillo] means a lot to me because not a lot of colleges recruit out there,” Thornton said. “When I play, I feel like I’m trying to put my city on, and get more kids out there recruited because we definitely have a lot of talent out there.”