Leading up to the NFL draft, Hugh Thornton wasn’t sure if he would get picked.
A phone call from Indianapolis Colts offensive line coach Joe Gilbert changed that misperception Friday night for the former Illinois offensive lineman, who was watching the draft unfold with family and friends in Boise, Idaho.
“I started to stress a little bit,” Thornton said before the Colts chose him late in the third round with the 86th overall pick. “I didn’t know where I was going to go. It was a quick reaction when I picked the phone up, and the emotions came out.”
It is the second straight year — and fourth in the last five — Illinois has had an offensive lineman drafted.
Gilbert coached the offensive linemen at Illinois during Thornton’s first three seasons. He continued recruiting Thornton to Illinois late in the process after former Illinois offensive line coach Eric Wolford departed for the same position at South Carolina.
Cornerback Vontae Davis just finished his first season with Indianapolis, giving Thornton another Illinois connection two hours east of Champaign.
“It’s going to be cool to be teammates with a former Illini,” Thornton said. “I haven’t reached out to him yet, but a lot of the older guys on the team knew him and I met him a couple times.”
Staying in the Midwest and playing for a playoff team led by quarterback Andrew Luck is an aspect Thornton is looking forward to.
“I’m just excited to be a Colt,” he said. “It was probably the best possible scenario for me.”