If Brad Thorson is as fast a study on the field as he is the classroom, Kansas University football coaches have reason to smile.
Before arriving at Kansas this summer as a transfer, Thorson - thanks largely to a heavy advanced placement workload in high school - managed to complete his undergraduate degree in two years at the University of Wisconsin, where he also played as a backup center on the school's football team.
"I was finishing up my undergraduate education, and I had a unique opportunity to potentially go somewhere else and see what other opportunities there were," said Thorson, who is enrolled in a sports administration graduate program at KU.
That opportunity included a walk-on spot at Kansas, and the 6-foot-3, 290-pound red-shirt sophomore arrived in Lawrence just before the start of August training camp.
He also arrived with a bit of baggage.
According to the Capital Times (Madison, Wis.), Thorson was involved in an incident while competing in workouts last spring with the Badgers in which teammate Dan Moore ended up with a knee injury that kept him out the remainder of the spring and forced him to undergo rehab.
Thorson left the program shortly after the incident, despite the fact that he still had three years of eligibility left. Rumors out of Madison were that he'd been asked to leave the team, at least partially, because of a sometimes-intense competitive streak, although Thorson remained vague in his description of his departure from the team.
"I felt like it was time for me to move on to a better situation" he said. "So, in the end, it is what it is, and I'm really happy to be here at Kansas."
So far, his time in Lawrence seems to have gone by without incident. He's currently listed as the team's No. 2 center, and he appears to bask in the reputation he carries as an intense competitor.
"I think a lot of people associate that with me," Thorson said. " ... They call it the trenches for a reason, and I think everybody plays with an edge. You have to play with an edge to be here."
The recent struggles of the offensive line have also raised questions of whether Thorson could see any kind of extended playing time this season. With Kansas ranked last in the Big 12 in rush offense with 105 yards-per-game (Oklahoma State leads the conference with a 334.3 average), much of the blame has fallen on the play of the offensive line, which features two red-shirt freshmen at the tackle positions.
However, the team's current starter at center, senior Ryan Cantrell, has started the team's past 16 games and was an all-Big 12 honorable mention selection in 2007, and coach Mark Mangino said Tuesday that he's in no hurry to shake things up on the offensive line.
"I think right now we're playing our best five offensive linemen," the coach said. "Can that change? Yes, it can. But (does that mean) putting him in the lineup right now? I don't think so, at this point in time. Ryan Cantrell is a veteran guy. He needs to play well and he's capable, he's proven that."
At the same time, offensive coordinator Ed Warinner was quick to add that, if needed, Thorson would have no problem stepping in to an elevated role.
"I think (he's) ready if we needed him," said Warinner. "He could step in and do a very adequate job for us."