Friday, April 22, 2011

SPORTS>>Red Devils football players earning accolades

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville linebacker Michael Thornabar is making up for lost time, and then some.

The Red Devils junior, who missed the past football season with a shoulder injury, appears to be back in top form after earning defensive MVP honors in the central Arkansas combine, held in conjunction with at North Little Rock High School.

Thornabar went through a series of drills and exercises that included bench pressing 225 pounds 15 times, running the 40-yard dash in 4.67 seconds, posting a 30-inch vertical jump, broad jumping 8 feet, 3 inches and completing the shuttle run in 4.6 seconds.

“He got that plaque and we’re so proud of him,” Jacksonville coach Rick Russell said of Thornabar’s award. “He’s worked extremely hard. He was injured last football season.

“He’s working hard in the offseason getting bigger, stronger and faster.”

Thornabar injured his shoulder, requiring surgery, while making contact in spring practice before last season.

While the Devils, in their first year with Russell as head coach, were reaching the 6A playoffs and taking a first-round victory over Sheridan, Thornabar was anxiously sitting out the most important college recruiting year for a high school football player.

“It was very hard,” Thornabar said. “There were some moments where I just wanted to give up because I wasn’t playing and I saw my team losing. Our first game we played Cabot and it was at War Memorial and we lost and I felt very bad because I wanted to support my team.

“I was there spiritually, but I wasn’t there physically to help them go on to victory.”

And of course Thornabar missed the chance to strut his stuff for college scouts.

Once his shoulder healed, he attacked his offseason conditioning, telling his coach he was trying to cram two seasons into one. The Red Devils’ offseason weightlifting sessions, at under an hour, clearly haven’t been long enough for Thornabar.

“He’s probably lived in the weight room,” Russell said.

Since scouts didn’t get to see him in pads last year, Thornabar knows the combines are his best chance to jump start his recruiting chances until he can suit up for his senior season with the Red Devils this fall.

“I fee like I have gotten back on track because I performed great and I worked hard,” Thornabar said.

“I feel like I work hard and I can even work harder to get myself to the next level and hopefully college recruiters will see what I did at the combine and start sending letters and emails and such.”

Russell said he and the coaching staff will do their part to help promote Thornabar and any other potential recruits.

So far NCAA Division II Harding University has shown the most interest in Thornabar, 5-10, 240 pounds. He said he would rule out no school if there were interest shown, but is hoping he can make up enough lost ground to get offers from major college programs.

“I’ve always been told by my elders to set your goals up high and set them at the top,” Thornabar said.