Before he took to LaVell Edwards Stadium with the football team, Eric Thornton caught passes during BYU intramural flag football games.
Like many students at BYU, Thornton, now a redshirt sophomore wide receiver, has participated in intramural competition. He especially excelled in flag football, but Thornton also played basketball and both co-ed and men’s soccer. In 2012, his team took third place in the upper division flag football championship.
Prior to making the football team as a walk-on, Thornton saw intramural activities as a way to continue playing sports.
“It was more recreational,” Thornton said. “I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do football for BYU at the time.”
Upon returning from his mission to Ohio in January 2011, Thornton decided to try out for the football team.
“Playing football was never the absolute goal,” Thornton said in regard to his vision of making the team.
Thornton tried out four times for the team, vying for a spot as a receiver. Every year he didn’t make the team, he implemented feedback from the coaching staff in order to improve his prospects for the next tryout. Thornton made the cut his second time trying out but failed to receive medical clearance to play.
Thornton’s fourth tryout proved successful, which Thornton said was fortunate.
“This would’ve been my last time,” he said.
By the end, Thornton learned to think outside the box in order to be remembered by the coaches.
“I wore a bright neon shirt and colorful shoes in order to get noticed, and it seems to have worked,” Thornton joked.
Many students try out each year for the 19 NCAA teams that BYU fields, not including club sports such as rugby and hockey. BYU football standouts J.D. Falslev and Skyler Ridley, as well as former basketball star Brock Zylstra, are former walk-ons who found success on the field and court.
Having hope yet being realistic was Thornton’s mindset in his efforts to make the football team.
“You can’t be 6’6,” 300 pounds and expect to be a figure skater. That’s not realistic. You can’t be 5’2″ and slow and expect to make it,” Thornton said. “I’m small, but I worked for it.”
Thornton — who stands at 5’10” and weighs 180 pounds — made sacrifices to earn his spot on the team. He said he gave up time and put in many hours of hard work. Thornton’s perseverance continues to pay off, as he has seen action on the field in every game the Cougars have played this year.
Now the campus activity that kept him in shape will have to wait — at least until the offseason.