Thornton Thunders Onto the Web

Former Mountaineer defensive lineman John "Thunder" Thornton recently unveiled his own website, and talked with him about his foray into cyberspace.

"Even when I was in college, the Internet was something I was interested in," Thornton said of his passion for computers. "I was always checking things out, and I knew I wanted to do something online.

"I have a lot of opinions, and this is a way that I can share them. I listen to a lot of sports talk on radio, and I check out a lot of sites online to see what people are saying. Someday after my career is over I might get into sports talk on the air, but right now this gives me a chance to do it."

Thornton's site features commentary from the big lineman on a number of topics, interviews with teammates and other NFL personalities, and also serves as a promotional tool for charitable events and as a link center to Cincinnati Bengal information on the web. The four-year WVU letterman is on the site every day moderating message boards and updating, and plans to keep at it even when the NFL season begins.

"It will be tougher to do it during the season, but I'll be able to do it during off days and on Fridays, when we only have a half-day," the former Mountaineer standout said. "I want to get the fans more involved, and I will probably do ticket giveaways and some other things."

Thornton isn't afraid to share his opinions online, but he also notes that there's "a wall" between the private world of the Bengals and his site. He's not looking to have the online equivalent of "Ball Four", Jim Bouton's tell-all expose of life during the 1969 baseball season of the Seattle Pilots. He does want to share different viewpoints, and "ask the questions that media don't normally ask", but he also is quick to note that he's not going to talk about private team matters.

"My teammates know what I'm doing, and they've been having some fun with it," Thornton said with a laugh. "They've been calling me a beat writer, and syaing 'look out', when I come around. It's kind of fun, and I think they understand what I'm doing. They know I'mnot going to be putting any locker room stuff up on the site.

"Some guys are already coming to me and asking when they are going to be interviewed, too. It's been fun for me, and I'm trying to get show some different angles and tell expose fans to a side of the players they don't normally see. There are some things that I just can't say as a player, though. I can't give away who we're thinking about drafting, or stuff like that."

Thornton will also use his site to promote his charitable work, and his current event is a bowling outing to support the Autism Society of Greater Cincinnati. Thornton has lined up a number of Bengals to help with the event, which was a natural given his newfound love for bowling. He noted that he bowls "three or four times a week" with his son, and that while he's not ready to challenge the likes of Jerome Bettis (an avowed kegler who has rolled a perfect game), he is getting better.

Thornton hasn't limited his charitable work to just one cause, either. He made a donation to his alma mater for logo painting in the Caperton Indoor Center, and plans to support WVU more in the future.

"I know it can be tough to raise money at West Virginia, and I want to do more when I can. I'd do anything for the program. I see some players that leave schools and don't do anything, but I am not like that. WVU gave me the chance to get where I am."

Without any prompting, Thornton then jumped into praise for his former mentor, defensive line coach Bill Kirelawich.

"He's a special person. He believed in me, and pushed me to be what I am. I think the world of him. The big thing about Kirlav is that he was always real with me. He told me where he thought I could play in the NFL, and that's where he moved me in college. But he was just as concerned about my schooling as he was about playing. He was just the perfect coach for me.

"You don't get that kind of coach in the pros, with everyone moving around. I wish I could have that back. I had a great time at West Virginia."

Thornton lettered and was a big contributor during his first year on the field in 1995, and this year's defensive line has several players in the same situation. Players such as Keilein Dykes, Pat Liebig and Warren Young may be counted on to provide quality minutes on the field, just as "Thunder" did during his first year of play. Thornton's advice? Don't get ahead of yourself.

"I'd tell them not to try to do too much too soon," said the man who Kirelawich often holds up as an example to his young troops. "Coach Kirelawich will prepare you, just like he prepared Kevin Landolt and me behind the veterans that were there when we came in. Have fun and enjoy college; it goes by very quickly."

A new crop of potential NFL rookies has discovered that firsthand, as they are awaiting the NFL draft this Saturday. And although the Bengals might draft players that could someday be competing for his job, Thornton doesn't worry about who his team will pick. In fact, he has his own mock draft posted on his website.

"I figure that if a rookie can come in and take my job, then I was probably heading out the door anyway," the straight-shooting Thornton said. "I watch the draft just like any other fan. I know it's not a slap at me if they take a defensive lineman."

With so many of his thoughts on display, what questions haven't been asked of Thornton? What item hasn't been brought up, or remained undiscussed during his time in Morgantown?

"Probably the fact that I like soap operas," Thornton conceded. "We had a big snowstorm at school during the winter of 1996, and I got hooked on "The Young and the Restless". I've watched it ever since. In fact, I've got today's episode on Tivo, and I'm getting ready to watch it now."

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