"They have one DB spot left and a couple guys graduating, and I can go in and make an immediate impact."
The academics and overall football program were important in the decision-making as well. Enough that he committed without having visited the campus.
"I never got a chance to visit but we're going to set that visit up. I'm pretty much sold but I'm just ready to do it, and Illinois seemed like the perfect school. From what I've heard and read the academics are really good up there as well. I want to be an accountant."
A major factor was the good word put in by his close friend, an Illini freshman receiver.
"I'm really good friends with Darius Millines, he's kind of like my cousin. We're real close and we talk all the time."
Thornton has developed a close relationship with his recruiting coach Jeff Brohm. That actually began with Millines.
"Coach Brohm is a really cool guy, we made a good connection. He's a great guy. He's really cool, I talk to him just about every other day. The first time we talked, I had called Darius and he put in a word for me and it just went from there."
The 6'-0", 170 pounder had several other suitors.
"South Florida, WVU, Marshall, Cincy, Tennessee, Miami."
Thornton is confident in his abilities, essential when going one-on-one with top receivers.
"I think I can make an immediate impact and shut down receivers. I like being physical with receivers. I can play both coverage and play jamming. But I know my abilities and most receivers can't beat my jam."
Thornton expects his Glades Day high school team to have a great season.
"We want to win state this year. A lot of our guys came back from last year."