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Mount Saint Joseph WR Dont’e Thornton narrows recruiting list to 12 schools

Baltimore, Md--8/25/18--Left to right, #9 Charles Barley and #22 Matthew Harrer, St Mary's Ryken, chase #11 Dont'e Thornton, Jr., Mt. St. Joe, after Thornton caught a pass in the second quarter. Mount Saint Joseph hosts St Mary's Ryken. The high school football teams play for the for the Lambert Cup. Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun Staff.
Baltimore, Md--8/25/18--Left to right, #9 Charles Barley and #22 Matthew Harrer, St Mary's Ryken, chase #11 Dont'e Thornton, Jr., Mt. St. Joe, after Thornton caught a pass in the second quarter. Mount Saint Joseph hosts St Mary's Ryken. The high school football teams play for the for the Lambert Cup. Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun Staff.

Mount Saint Joseph wide receiver Dont’e Thornton cut his recruiting list on Saturday afternoon down to 12 schools: Virginia, Arizona State, Michigan, LSU, Penn State, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, Florida State, Notre Dame, Oregon and Southern California.

Thornton, a class of 2021 four-star recruit, per 247Sports, had over 27 schools vying for his talent before narrowing his list. Thornton totaled 38 receptions for 1,021 yards and 16 touchdowns last year. He was previously committed to Penn State before re-opening the recruitment process to get a better idea of his options.

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Now after giving it some time to process during his junior season and having some extra time to think things over with the coronavirus ravaging the nation and abroad, Thornton has gotten down to the nitty-gritty with his recruitment.

“We sat down and talked about them first,” said Thornton’s uncle Faschall Grade. “He had great rapport and great dialogue — great conversation with those schools. Throughout the process of this coronavirus, as well as prior to [it], we know just from all 12 that they are building.

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“They have something that really intrigues Dont’e, as well as us a family, that we know will definitely sit in the direction that he wants to go.”

Something that has always been important in Thornton’s decision-making process has been a sense of family. When making his commitment last season, he cited the family-like atmosphere of Happy Valley.

“I didn’t visit all 12 of the schools, but from the ones that I did visit, one of the most important things that stood out to me was the family aspect of the school and team when I was there,” Thornton said. “Everyone was getting along and they cared about each other.

“It plays a big role because when you are at that school, you know that your teammates and your coaches are going to be there for times of need. If something goes wrong, you’ll always have someone to defend you and have your family by you — basically like a second family."

Specifically, what impressed Grade and Thornton at Florida State was the new coaching staff under newly hired coach Mike Norvell and how alumni were actively involved in the program.

“[Thornton] being contacted by former players such as Peter Warrick and people of that nature saying how proud they are of the direction that the school is going in — that’s big to me,” Grade said. “You have people that are highly ranked like Coach [Ron] Dugans, who was a part of Bobby Bowden’s system with the national championship team and Samari Rolle to come back to want to help and coming back.

“It’s about family and being in a place where you want to be most comfortable and know the game and understand it.”

Then, you have the wisdom of Arizona State coach Herm Edwards, who often can be reached to speak of things outside of football.

“The thing is that Herm Edwards and his staff up there are great and we talked to him,” Grade said. “Sometimes, it’s just about football. You have conversations with Coach Edwards and it’s just about life and life after football and life after getting your degree. The ball is going to stop — it’s going to go flat at some point in life. So, you’ve got to be prepared for that next journey in life, where you have to provide for your family."

There’s the persistence of Virginia’s recruiting and academic pitch to Thornton. Though Virginia is looked at as an underdog in the equation, the school has emerged as one of the major contenders for Thornton.

“People have counted Virginia out because it’s a small school and they aren’t really big on the football aspect, but what Coach Bronco [Mendenhall] and what Coach [Marques] Hagans are doing at Virginia man is definitely a big, big, plus,“ continued Grade. “The family atmosphere down there — the conversations that we have, some coaches feel like when you’re not going to get him as a student-athlete, they tend to get a little of frustrated and things of that nature.

“It’s always a been a notion, like ‘whatever you do, we’re here to talk’. I really appreciate that because of bunch of coaches, even if they feel like they might not get that student-athlete keep their ears open on the phone and are available for you to call for advice.”

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The atmosphere on each campus and game day experiences have been huge for Thornton’s choice. During the 2019 season, Thornton went to Penn State’s White Out game in a 28-21 victory over Michigan on Oct. 19 and he’s compared it to other places that he’s been.

“When it comes to game day, the [Penn State] atmosphere is probably one of the best that I’ve seen,” said Thornton. “From going to the White Out game, seeing all of the fans and how they interacted with the team during the game. From some of the other games that I’ve been to, the amount of people that are there just changes it. But they are all great atmospheres.”

Meanwhile, Thornton has to continue to find ways to keep his body in shape during the pandemic. Usually, during the Spring, Thornton is keeping in shape through track season and football workouts with his teammates at Mount Saint Joseph.

It’s times like these where the elite wide receiver has had to get creative and find ways to combat the stagnation with exercises inside with pushups and sit-ups. He’s also found time to run outside and get out on an open field — joined with a few other teammates — while also practicing social distancing.

He’s also looking to follow up on a year when his team won a Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship and where he and his fellow receivers had a combined 175 catches for 2,892 receiving yards and 38 touchdowns. Gaels’ quarterback Billy Atkins led the state with 36 passing touchdowns.

The overall production has drawn attention to his other teammates, such as Ausar Crawley also receiving an offer from Arizona State and Atkins drawing an offer from Buffalo. It’s the mantra of “everybody eats” that drives Thornton.

“With me, that’s one of the biggest things that I like to do is make sure that everybody on the team eats because I know that if one of us eats, then all of us are going to eat based off of me having all of these schools come in,” said Thornton. “With them coming to see me, they’re going to end up seeing other players on the field.

“So, that means that other players are going to get looks. The hope is that they get their offers so that they all get the chance of pursuing their dream of playing football in college just the same as me. That’s one of the main things about it.”

The plan is for the top-flight wideout to cut his list down to five teams during the middle of next football season. Then, Thornton will announce which school he will attend in the fall of 2021 on Jan. 9 at the All-American Bowl in San Antonio.

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