Over the summer he was involved in an incident that led to his arrest, and because of the circumstances he served a one-game suspension, missing the season opener against Louisiana Tech.
Thornton was available for action versus Richmond but just played special teams. He didn't receive his first offensive snaps until last Thursday in the loss to Clemson.
"It's unexplainable," said Thornton. "I'm blessed that I'm still here. I don't think there is a person out here more grateful than I am right now. I just want to show it through practice and every time I can step on the field."
Thornton was one of the bright spots for NC State last season, as he led the Wolfpack in rushing with 694 yards, even though he started just four games and missed the first three contests of the year.
He began the year as a potential redshirt, but got his chance against The Citadel, where he rushed for 145 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. It was the highest total for a Pack back in his first collegiate game since Joe McIntosh in 1981.
Thornton would end the regular season with three-straight 100-yard games, and his four for the season was the most by a Pack tailback since T.A. McLendon had five as a freshman in 2002.
He was back making big plays versus Clemson. Thornton played 25 snaps, totaling one carry, a 21-yard touchdown, and one catch for 32 yards. Some fans wonder why Thornton didn't receive more carries.
"[Thornton] was in there some and some of the plays we had, the way we read them, he just didn't get the ball on them," said Wolfpack head coach Dave Doeren after the game. "Part of the problem was we really couldn't run the ball well inside and we had to run it outside and that's really not his forte."
The likelihood is that Thornton's role in the Wolfpack's offense will continue to expand each week, and it is a system that he believes can showcase his talents and the rest of the Wolfpack's offensive playmakers.
"Honestly, I just enjoy the offense," said Thornton. "We have a great offensive coordinator, and he knows how to draw up the plays to get the ball in the playmaker's hands. I'm just thankful and blessed to be in a position that I am to be used anyway they can use me.
"I think we're all happy that we can showcase our skills through the plays he calls. It makes us more enthusiastic in what we do. We take more pride when we're watching film and correcting ourselves. We jut want to be perfect and we want to execute the plays. All in all though, we love the offense."
As for Thornton, he remains focused on the team.
"Whatever they need me to do, that's what I'll do," he said. "If I need to catch it I'll catch it. If I need to run it, I'll run it. If I need to block, I'll block. I'll do whatever they need me to do.
"I'm here to play ball baby."