Giving back: Thornton comes home to Goldsboro
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on June 29, 2008 2:02 AM
Cleats clicked on the metal bleachers as players walked single file onto the plush, green football field at Goldsboro High School.
Each player took a knee.
All edged in closer and nearly touched shoulder to shoulder as David Thornton stepped into the center of the group. Thornton smiled and introduced himself, but the formalities were hardly necessary on this humid, warm Saturday afternoon.
Everyone knows David, a linebacker with the Tennessee Titans who grew up from humble beginnings in Goldsboro. He's regarded as a local hero in Cougar football lore.
Thornton modestly accepts the praise.
The 6-foot-2, 225-pounder declared his success stems from five traits he learned from his family and coaches, and carried throughout his high school and college careers. Thornton developed character, humility, a positive attitude, remained motivated and persevered when others said he couldn't.
He delivers that message each time he speaks with Goldsboro and area youth on the elementary, middle and high school scenes. It's become the theme of Thornton's annual camp, which has steadily expanded in three seasons.
"It's growing stronger, bigger and better each and every year," said a smiling Thornton. "It's truly a blessing to see the community come out and support an event of this caliber. We take time to teach these guys the fundamentals of the game.
"We help them build traits to become not only a better football player, but to become a better person."
That's Thornton's true mission.
Raised in a God-loving household, Thornton uses the camp as a platform to share his story and his wealth -- the knowledge that having faith in God is a valuable and resourceful commodity in life.
"I encourage them that with God in their life, all things are possible no matter what someone might say about you regarding your size, stature ... anything discouraging," said Thornton. "I come here to rebut those things. I tell them anything is possible no matter what socio-economic background you come from.
"You have to trust God and keep him first in life."
While Thornton and his camp assistants ran the players through different drills, he took time to answer questions or sign an additional autograph. Although the queries were vague, Thornton offered a positive response.
He admitted he prefers a classroom setting.
"That's where I can really relate and open up because I have 45 minutes or an hour to talk with them," said Thornton. "I encourage them to make the right choices regardless of how things were before. If you were making bad choices, you can start making smarter choices today.
"I stress education along with faith. You need to give a consistent effort every day, be prepared for class and do what is necessary to get those good grades."
In addition to speaking at schools, Thornton is actively involved in both the Goldsboro and Nashville (Tenn.) communities. He spends time working with numerous youth groups and helps feed families in need during Thanksgiving.
"I always tell them to set your goals high, keep a positive attitude, stay motivated and persevere, and you can still achieve something very successful in your life," said Thornton. "You want to plant a little seed that hopefully one day God will receive the bounty, and he usually does."
Thornton is a great example.
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