Northwestern athletics dodged a bullet on Bryant McIntosh’s knee injury. But not Clayton Thorson’s.
The winningest quarterback in NU history has a torn ACL that throws his college career and NFL timeline up in the air, the Tribune has learned.
Thorson got carted off Friday in the Music City Bowl after making a 24-yard catch on a trick play. He immediately grabbed his right knee as Nissan Stadium hushed and teammates approached to offer encouragement.
After the game NU coach Pat Fitzgerald said that a preliminary exam revealed “nothing overly alarming … I think he hyperextended it, from my vantage point.”
But subsequent tests revealed a tear and there is no timetable for his return. Surgery is expected in a few weeks. Torn ACLs typically have a 9- to 12-month recovery period.
Thorson announced Dec. 19 that he would return to Evanston for his fifth season and fourth as a starter. Had he been healthy and entered the NFL draft, he figured to be a late-round pick.
If Thorson isn’t ready for NU’s Aug. 30 (Thursday night) season-opener at Purdue, Northwestern likely will turn to either TJ Green or Andrew Marty.
Green, who will be a redshirt sophomore, is a walk-on and the son of former NFL standout Trent Green. He threw for 2,700 yards and 33 touchdowns as a senior at Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, earning Missouri Gatorade Player of the Year honors. He attempted and completed one pass this season, against Bowling Green.
Marty will be a redshirt freshman. Originally committed to Miami (Ohio), the Cincinnati native was responsible for 50 touchdowns as a high school senior (43 passing, seven rushing) and has terrific leadership skills.
Redshirt freshman Aidan Smith also would get a shot. And maybe incoming freshman Jason Whittaker. And perhaps a graduate school transfer.
Northwestern has a phenomenal 2018 home schedule – Duke, Akron, Michigan, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Notre Dame and Illinois.
Thorson’s 27 victories as the starting quarterback are the most in NU history. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Wheaton North alumnus ranks second in program history in passing yards (7,513) and completions (688). He’s a career 57.4 percent passer and made third-team all-Big Ten in 2017.