Buchanan: 'I dreamed for this opportunity'
Hugh Thornton arrived at Illinois a three-star recruit from Oberlin (Ohio) High School.
Michael Buchanan arrived with a bit more hype as a four-star high school prospect coming out of Homewood-Flossmoor (Ill.) High School.
The two signees from the Class of 2009 could hear their names called during the 2013 NFL Draft, which takes place April 25-27.
Both players said last Thursday after Pro Day workouts at Illinois' Irwin Indoor practice facility that they don't pay attention to where online mock drafts project them, with Thornton and Buchanan possibly going in the middle rounds.
"In this business, some teams are going to like you more than others," said Thornton, who could play either an offensive guard or offensive tackle in the NFL. "Mock drafts are like a bunch of old guys sitting on a couch guessing."
Buchanan points to former Illini Tavon Wilson as a recent example.
"My boy was drafted in the second round, and nobody thought he was going to get drafted," Buchanan said of Wilson, who was the 48th overall pick in last year's draft and made 41 tackles in four interceptions in 16 games last season for New England. "It doesn't mean anything. It's about whatever team falls in love with you."
Thornton committed to Illinois on Aug. 21, 2008. Buchanan waited a tad longer, deciding a day before National Signing Day on Feb. 3, 2009 that he would play college football at Illinois.
Both Thornton and Buchanan did not participate in any individual drills at Illinois' Pro Day, opting instead to use times they gathered at last month's NFL Combine in Indianapolis.
"I would say coming out here as a freshman and watching on the sidelines as the guys went through their Pro Day, I dreamed for this opportunity," Buchanan said. "For me to go to the Combine, that was huge. That was one of my biggest accomplishments to date. It was a humbling experience, and I feel really blessed to be in this opportunity."
Even if it means rounds of interviews with prospective NFL teams and scouts, along with the poking and prodding of their bodies that comes with the draft process.
"We joke about it, but we've been doing it our whole lives," Thornton said. "When you go into high school football, you've got to get a physical, and (at practices), you've got speed tests and conditioning tests. The same thing in college. At this point in your life, you should be used to it."