2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Thornton overcomes long odds to star with Eagles

By ROB MAADDI - AP Pro Football Writer
    2013-12-12 15:45

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - While 254 players were selected in the 2011 NFL draft, Cedric Thornton waited for a phone call that never came.

He makes 31 teams wish they picked him every week.

After being passed up in the draft, Thornton signed a free-agent deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. He's gone from undrafted rookie to one of the best defensive players on a first-place team.

Thornton has thrived in his first year playing defensive end in a 3-4 system. He's fifth on the team with 69 tackles and Pro Football Focus rates as the NFC's best run-stopping end in a 3-4 defense.

''I look at every opportunity to be better than a person drafted before me or the person that played my position that's considered elite,'' Thornton said. ''I have a first-round draft pick (Fletcher Cox) playing next to me, so he motivates me, too. Only I can dictate what happens to my career, whether I play at an elite level on Sunday or I get dominated. It can go either way. The ball is in my hand and I try to do everything possible to be successful.''

Thornton had to overcome long odds, beginning his journey to the pros as a standout player at Division II Southern Arkansas. He was a two-year starter and earned first-team All-America honors as a junior.

Thornton went to the NFL scouting combine, but didn't register high grades. His 40-yard dash time (5.25) was tied for fourth worst among defensive tackles. His bench press (23) was tied for third lowest.

''Coming from a Division II school, we didn't have all the programs and facilities they have at Division I, so I just had to work harder,'' Thornton said.

Eagles general manager Howie Roseman had his eyes on Thornton and targeted him right away after the draft was completed. Roseman enjoys telling a story about going to the team's practice facility to work out on a holiday and seeing Thornton already there.

''I just had my eyes on the prize, knowing that when I got my opportunity, I wanted to be ready, and I just work hard every chance possible,'' Thornton said.

It's that work ethic that impresses coaches and has Thornton playing at a Pro Bowl level.

''He's a hard worker,'' defensive coordinator Billy Davis said. ''Cedric's had to work for everything he's ever gotten. He just puts his head down and works every day. He takes a lot of pride in every rep he has. He's playing at a very high level for what we're asking him to do.''

Coach Chip Kelly often singles out Thornton for his excellent play. Though he only has one sack - against Peyton Manning in Week 4 - Kelly considered Thornton the team's best pass rusher, too.

''He always seems to be around the ball no matter if it's a run or pass,'' Kelly said. ''He's a real technician and has really bought into what we're doing.''

Forty-four defensive linemen were chosen in the 2011 draft, including 12 in the first round. Five more were picked in Round 2. One of those guys, defensive tackle Marvin Austin, the 52nd overall pick by the New York Giants, is out of football. Others drafted in lower rounds also aren't in the league.

That's just added motivation for Thornton.

''I think anybody that played at high level in college thinks they're going to get drafted,'' he said. ''I definitely thought so, whether it was third round, mid-round or later. But every day I look at it as I have to play better than every person drafted at my position. It's an opportunity to show teams they should've drafted me and I'm better than the guy they drafted.''

Thornton has a quiet, low-key personality. He grew up in a small town in Arkansas and spent six summers during his childhood picking peas by hand for 12 hours a day at a $50 daily wage. His father, Nathaniel, is a pastor, and his mother, Angela, is a minister. Thornton sang in his church's choir and his faith is an important part of his life. It's certainly helped him mature as a player, too.

''Christianity is all about faith and believing in something you never saw,'' Thornton said. ''I didn't see myself as a Pro Bowl player but I definitely think I have the talent and the skills to be one. I believe in myself and I stay consistent.''

---

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

---

Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AP-RobMaaddi

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Zac StacyMay 1 08:22a

St. Louis Rams RB Zac Stacy has asked the team for a trade or to be released after the team selected RB Todd Gurley in the first round of [ More ]

Sam BradfordMay 1 12:52a

The Philadelphia Eagles offered the Tennessee Titans two first-round picks, one third-round pick, DT Fletcher Cox, CB Brandon Boykin, LB Mychal Kendricks and QB Sam Bradford in exchange for [ More ]

Ryan TannehillApr 30 10:52p

Miami Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill is coming off his best season as a pro, and the team has added WR Kenny Stills, WR Greg Jennings, WR DeVante Parker and [ More ]

Manuel RamirezApr 30 10:42p

The Detroit Lions traded the 23rd overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft to the Denver Broncos for C Manuel Ramirez, the 28th overall pick, the 143rd overall pick and a 2016 fifth-round pick.

Trindon HollidayApr 30 03:32p

San Francisco 49ers WR Trindon Holliday was released Thursday, April 30, while OG Fou Fonoti and WR Lance Lewis were waived.

Montee BallApr 30 03:32p

Denver Broncos RB Montee Ball is confident that he will regain the lead-back role with the team, but admitted that RB C.J. Anderson deserves the job right now. Ball [ More ]

Philip WheelerApr 30 03:22p

Free-agent LB Philip Wheeler (Dolphins) signed with the San Francisco 49ers Thursday, April 30. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Adrian PetersonApr 30 02:12p

Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson is still expected to remain with the Vikings even though former NFL WR Cris Carter indicated Peterson could be traded in the near future.

Tom CrabtreeApr 30 01:02p

Free-agent TE Tom Crabtree (Saints) has announced his retirement from professional football.

Bruce IrvinApr 29 11:33p

The Seattle Seahawks do not plan on picking up the fifth-year option on LB Bruce Irvin, according to sources.

L.J. FortApr 29 03:13p

Cincinnati Bengals LB L.J. Fort was waived Wednesday, April 29.

Martellus BennettApr 29 02:33p

Chicago Bears TE Martellus Bennett could be on the move since the Bears are entertaining trade offers for him, according to sources. Bennett is looking for a new contract [ More ]

Johnny ManzielApr 28 08:43p

Cleveland Browns QB Johnny Manziel's commitment is 'night and day' from last year, according to Browns OT Joe Thomas, Tuesday, April 28. Manziel has been participating in the Browns' [ More ]

Philip RiversApr 28 06:13p

San Diego Chargers QB Philip Rivers will not be traded, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. Additionally, the Chargers will not extend Rivers' contract as of now, but they [ More ]

Matt ForteApr 28 05:13p

Chicago Bears RB Matt Forte was not present for the team's commencement of their voluntary minicamp Tuesday, April 28. Forte was also absent for the beginning of the offseason [ More ]

Quanterus SmithApr 28 01:23p

Denver Broncos DE Quanterus Smith (knee) was waived Tuesday, April 28, after a failed physical on his left knee. Smith played in 15 games last year and had 11 tackles and zero sacks.

Dion JordanApr 28 01:13p

Miami Dolphins DE Dion Jordan will be suspended for the entire 2015 season for another substance abuse policy violation, according to league sources. Jordan will not appeal the suspension.

Quanterus SmithApr 28 10:32a

Denver Broncos DE Quanterus Smith was waived Tuesday, April 28, according to a source.

Adrian PetersonApr 28 08:52a

Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson is 80% likely to remain with the Vikings, in the opinion of ESPN insider Chris Mortensen.

Sam BradfordApr 28 01:13a

Philadelphia Eagles QB Sam Bradford was acquired to be the team's quarterback, not as a trade pawn. Bradford will only sign an extension with the Eagles with a no-trade [ More ]

Philip RiversApr 27 09:12p

San Diego Chargers QB Philip Rivers hadn't been the topic of conversations between the Chargers and other NFL teams as of Monday, April 27. There have been plenty of [ More ]

Jonte GreenApr 27 04:22p

Buffalo Bills CB Jonte Green was released Monday, April 27.

Michael CoxApr 27 02:42p

New York Giants RB Michael Cox was waived Monday, April 27.

Philip RiversApr 27 02:12p

San Diego Chargers QB Philip Rivers is unlikely to be traded to the Tennessee Titans on draft day this Thursday, April 30. A deal couldn't be done without Rivers [ More ]

Sam BradfordApr 24 06:02p

Oregon QB Marcus Mariota could be selected by the Philadelphia Eagles if the team could make trades with the Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans, according to one draft rumor. [ More ]

Chris PolkApr 24 05:42p

Philadelphia Eagles restricted free-agent RB Chris Polk's tender offer has been rescinded by the Eagles, according to a source. Polk will become an unrestricted free agent and allowed to sign with any team.

Jaiquawn JarrettApr 24 04:52p

New York Jets restricted free-agent SS Jaiquawn Jarrett signed his tender offer Friday, April 24. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Hakeem NicksApr 24 01:42p

Free-agent WR Hakeem Nicks (Colts) agreed to terms on an undisclosed deal with the Tennessee Titans Friday, April 24.

Justin BlackmonApr 24 12:42p

Jacksonville Jaguars WR Justin Blackmon is likely done with the Jaguars if he's reinstated into the league, in the opinion of beat writer Ryan O'Halloran.

Adrian PetersonApr 23 05:22p

Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson may not be in the Dallas Cowboys' plans after all, according Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports. Robinson said the Cowboys have not spoken to the Vikings regarding Peterson.

Demaryius ThomasApr 23 03:32p

Denver Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas has decided not to participate in offseason workouts because he does not want to suffer an injury, but general manager John Elway does not [ More ]

Will HillApr 23 03:12p

Baltimore Ravens restricted free-agent FS Will Hill signed his tender offer Thursday, April 23, according to sources. Hill received a one-year deal worth $1.54 million.

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2015 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group