Archive for Monday, September 20, 1993

ON RETURNS

September 20, 1993

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One of Baker's big play men this year has been one of the smallest football players in the school's history.

Joel Thornton, a 5-6 junior transfer, is the punt and kick returner and a wideout for the Wildcats. Thornton's speed, quickness, and moves make him a concern to opposing defense.

"Joel has been the type of player that we have need for the past few years," wide receiver Gary Greenwood said. "He is a big threat because of his speed and is a deadly returner. He's definitely going to return some back for us this year for touchdowns."

Thornton looked to have his first return at the most opportune time in Saturday's loss at Iowa Wesleyan. With Baker trailing 21-13 late in the fourth quarter, Thornton appeared to have returned a IWU punt for an 80-yard touchdown, but a clipping penalty nullified the score.

"BEFORE THE punt, everyone was cheering me on on the sideline. I was thinking that I had to score," Thornton said. "When I broke it, I heard the crowd cheering and my only reaction was thinking 'I scored. I scored.'"

"But I turned around and saw the flag, and that burst my bubble. I was hurting, not for myself, but for the team. We would have been back in the game and that play would have made a difference in itself."

Thornton made a big difference in the season-opening victory over Ottawa, snagging two touchdown receptions for 13 and 33 yards. The junior has five receptions for 100 yards this year.

"When the opposing defenses see me, they think 'deep ball'," Thornton said. "Nine out of 10 times, if I'm not in motion, I'm going to go deep. My job is to stretch the defense as much as I can. Should I beat the defense, the quarterback is going to throw me the ball."

Thornton, who says he's actually 5-4, sees his size as an advantage and a disadvantage.

"RIGHT NOW, I have an advantage in that people don't realize the potential I have. They see me as a person to stretch the defense. But given time over the year, they will see me as a big play guy that makes things happen."

"It's also easy to hide behind a wall on returns and no one can see me on returns when I'm going through the pile. But as the season wears on, they will know who I am and it will be a disadvantage."

Before transferring to Baker, Thornton played at Southwestern Junior College in San Diego, California. The Birmingham, Ala., native was a preseason All-American after his freshman year, but after a dismal 2-8 team record, Thornton's stock dropped.

"I went from number three or four on everyone's list to number fifteen," Thornton said. "But (BU alum) Richard Stevens kept with me. I hated it here at first, because it was cold and snowing until April last year. But I'm glad I came here."

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