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64 Days to Kickoff! - Justin Thomas-Thornton

Sometimes the real recruits are the friends you make along the way. Like when Auburn signed a highly rated defensive end and an undersized linebacker out of Vigor.

NCAA Football: Alabama at Auburn Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

As we continue our march to kickoff, we take a look at the top 100 recruits to sign with Auburn of all-time*. The rankings are based on 247’s composite recruit rankings, which unfortunately only date back to 2000.

THE RECRUIT

Justin Thomas-Thornton was a consensus 4* defensive end, and one of the top 10 players in the state of Alabama in the 2014 class. Thomas-Thornton was being rectuited heavily by Auburn, LSU, and Texas A&M, but decided on the good Tigers at the end of his junior year.

According to Bud Elliot, the Vigor HS product was “flexible, athletic, and lean at 6’5 and 222 pounds”. Despite being a a little undersized for his height and position, Thomas-Thornton wasn’t looked at as a pure speed-rusher. Instead, scouts commended him on his strength and hand technique, and expected him to fill out his frame in a college weight program.

Of course, the jewel of landing JTT as a recruit was that Auburn coaches became very familiar - and later signed - another undersized Vigor player: Deshaun Davis.

THE PLAYER

Well, let’s scratch this one up as another bust. It was no surprise to see Thomas-Thornton redshirt in 2014. But, when Carl Lawson went down with an injury in the 2015 opener, Thornton was still nowhere to be seen. The only snaps he ever played for the Tigers were in that Louisville game.

By the time the summer rolled around in 2016, the Mobile native decided to transfer. It’s not clear if it was simply due to playing time, or if there were any other issues between he and the coaches, but it just wasn’t meant to be.

Following the lead of Roc Thomas a few weeks earlier, Justin Thomas-Thornton transferred to FCS Jacksonville State, where he could play immediately. He became a rotation player for the Gamecocks for the next three seasons, but never really became a standout on the team. He ended his three seasons in Jacksonville with 43 tackles, 8 TFL, and 4 sacks.

Deshaun Davis, meanwhile, became one of the most beloved Auburn linebackers since at least Travis Williams, and totaled 262 tackles, 29.5 TFL, 7.5 sacks, and 6 interceptions in his career on the Plains.