The numbers didn’t lie for Clayton Thorson during his four seasons at Northwestern – he finished as the Wildcats’ all-time leader with 10,731 passing yards, 991 completions, and 61 touchdowns. He became one of only six quarterbacks in Big Ten history to pass for more than 10,000 yards in his career and is the only quarterback in conference history to throw for more than 10,000 yards and run for 20 touchdowns in his career. He played in 53 games, also a Big Ten record for quarterbacks. He was durable, and he was a leader.
And maybe the most impressive thing on Thorson’s list of credentials as he waited for his name to be called in the 2019 NFL Draft was the way he won for Northwestern.
“Here’s a guy who in three of the last four years led Northwestern to a bowl game, a win, actually,” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said after the team made Thorson its fifth-round draft pick on Saturday, No. 167 overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. “He’s a proven winner and he’s got great production. He’ll fit well into that room and we’re looking forward to working with him.”
A highly rated recruit and one of the nation’s top dual-threat quarterbacks out of high school, Thorson is a complete package. He was a member of the Math Honor Society in high school and he led his high school team to the state football playoffs. At Northwestern, Thorson was, simply, the man.
Now he’s trying to take his career to the next level in a room headed by Carson Wentz, with young veteran Nate Sudfeld in line to be the No. 2 quarterback and recently signed Luis Perez ready to compete for a roster spot.
“Carson has the keys to the car, he knows it all and I’m sure Nate does too,” said Thorson, whose father, Chad, played in the NFL with the Giants and was with the Eagles in the 1991 Training Camp period and preseason as a linebacker. “So, I’m looking forward to learning from them, but also becoming good friends with them and supporting them and competing my butt off and so looking forward to getting to know them. I’ve heard such great things about that room, obviously to see Nick (Foles) go away, I think it’s just a great opportunity for me.”
Thorson didn’t miss any time at Northwestern after suffering a torn ACL at the end of his junior campaign and then he played in Northwestern’s Music City Bowl game as a senior with a high-ankle sprain, but he’s said to be a tough, hard-nosed player with a football pedigree. Thorson grew up loving the game of football, was coached at Northwestern by former NFL quarterback Kent Graham, and comes to the Eagles with some experience and polish.
“I grew up watching Peyton Manning,” he said. “I think I take things from each quarterback I watch. You watch Aaron Rodgers get out of the pocket and move and he is pretty impressive. But I try to be myself and who that is is a guy who can sling it. With our offense at Northwestern, I was able to learn how to throw the ball with a lot of anticipation and tight windows, making plays on the run, moving the pocket a little bit. But we had a great offense at Northwestern in terms of preparing me for the NFL. So, I feel like I have taken a lot from many different quarterbacks.”
With the Eagles, Thorson has to impress the coaching staff and earn a roster spot and the trust of all of his teammates, one step at a time.
“I’m just so grateful and thankful for the Eagles organization for taking me and I’m looking forward to getting in there and learning from these great coaches and obviously this awesome quarterback room that I’ve heard so much about,” Thorson said. “So I’m really excited. It meant a lot to me. I’ve heard such good things about the Eagles. So, really looking forward to Philly and I’m thankful for the opportunity.”