Jeff Thorne was ready to make the 13.5-hour drive from Illinois to New Jersey in January to see his friends until his son Peyton got behind the wheel.
A successful Division III coach at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois, Jeff was a successful coach at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. Michigan.
Five years ago, he turned down West Michigan, especially because he didn’t want to separate his family, especially when Peyton and his two younger sisters were still in school. During the drive to New Jersey, Jeff turned to his then-20-year-old son for directions.
“Peyton was weighing heavily on me,” Jeff said.
Football has always been easy to talk to for Peyton and his father, but this was more than a game. This was about family, legacy and opportunity.
“Dad,” he said to him, “you have to do this.”
Jeff took the job of offensive coordinator in West Michigan, reunited with longtime friend Tim Lester, and coincidentally set up a father-son matchup when the Broncos played No. 15 in Michigan on Friday. (7 PM ET, ESPN/ESPN app). ) in East He Lansing.
“For me, it’s not really awkward because I’m actually playing,” Peyton said, entering his second season as the Spartan starting quarterback. All you have to do is execute attacks, execute the game plan you’ve put together, and try to win in front of your teammates and fans.
“I’m sure it would be a little weird for him to not want us to score now, from someone who’s been rooting for me all his life. But I think it’s weird. I know deep down that you’re going to pull from your dad to the coach.”
For Thornes, football has always been a family business. Peyton’s grandfather, John, moved to North in 2002 before moving to Wheaton, Warrenville, South where he spent 22 years and won four state high school titles in the 1990s. Did.
John managed North Central for 13 years, winning eight consecutive conference titles between 2006 and 2013. Then in 2015, Jeff took charge and took the Cardinals to new heights, eventually winning the program’s first title, his 2019 Division III National title.
His success caught the attention of several FBS schools, and it took Jeff years to become Leicester’s offensive coordinator in West Michigan.
Lester’s father, Fred and John Thorne, were Illinois Wesleyan fraternity brothers. Lester himself eventually played quarterback under John in high school, winning the 1992 state championship before he started two years with the Tigers.
“He’s my favorite coach I’ve played with,” Lester said. “I learned from him about life and how to be a man like my second father. And I’m sure there are probably thousands of people out there who would say the same thing.
Fifteen years later, he was John and Jeff’s assistant at North Central. Lester then moved to Division III Elmhurst where he headed the college for five years before serving as an assistant at Syracuse and Purdue before becoming head coach at West Michigan in 2017.
Lester wanted to bring Jeff on board after West Michigan first hired him, but Jeff chose to continue building on his father’s success at North Central. was a 2013 national semi-finalist. After winning the 2019 championship and reaching the 2021 title his game, Leicester called his friends again. When Jeff discussed it with his son, he thought it was just the right time.
“It wasn’t something I’d miss a second time,” said Jeff, 50, who is second only to fellow quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo, Sean Payton and Tony Romo in Eastern Illinois’ all-time offensive record. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Tim and I have been talking about it for years and years.”
Friday was Jeff’s first game as offensive coordinator, and he had a tough job keeping up with his son, whom Peyton has known since middle school, and Michigan State’s star wide receiver Jaden Reed. is imposed on
Although Reed was a year older than Peyton, they played together as teenagers from Pop Warner to Metea Valley High School, before finally transferring to Naperville Central High School together in 2017. guardianship.
“He taught me about the game,” Reid said. “So I really look up to him as another father figure, another mentor.”
Mr Payton added: “My family has always said that his home is our home, and I feel that he is part of our family and I am part of his family. ”
Their connection extends beyond the field and basketball court, with Reed once crossing over Payton so badly that Payton told his coach, “Why are you doing this to me?” said. look.
It intensified after Reed’s father, Sabian, died of kidney and heart failure in September 2015, during Reed’s sophomore year. Reed has a picture of Sabian on her chain, and her father’s spirit is her daily motivation.
“He may have wanted [my success] said Reed.
West Michigan are one of four FBS teams to offer scholarships to Reed, signing with Leicester as a recruit in 2018. He earned FWAA Freshman All-American honors after scoring 797 yards on 56 passes and his eight touchdowns.
“If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Reed said of Lester. “He gave me a chance. He believed in me.”
Reid then wanted a bigger challenge, so he transferred to Michigan. That decision comes months after Peyton reversed his commitment from West Michigan to Michigan during an early signing period in 2018.
They helped turn a 2-5 team in the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season into an 11-2 team that won the 2021 Peach Bowl. Payton threw for 3,240 yards and touchdowns. I got
That chemistry was evident in the timely 4-down conversions in wins over Michigan and Penn State, and the go-ahead touchdown against Pittsburgh in the Peach Bowl.
“It’s a game I always look back on and I’m proud of what we accomplished as a team,” said Payton, who pitched two of his three scores to Peach Bowl offensive MVP Reed. rice field.
Expectations are high for coach Mel Tucker and the Spartans heading into the 2022 season, and Thorne and Reid believe they have unfinished business.
It’s a familiar feeling to them.
In their final high school season together, Reed, who had 1,179 receiving yards and 18 total touchdowns in his senior years, injured his ankle during Naperville Central’s eventual loss in the state quarterfinals. . Both he and Peyton argue that if he was healthy, he could have won it all.
“I didn’t finish it in high school,” said Reid. “Why can’t I finish it in college?”
Payton and Reid know this will likely be their last year together as teammates, so they want to make it the best year possible and keep their program on the right track. .
“We definitely have goals that we want to achieve as a duo,” Reid said. “Get the ring and be successful on the field.”
It starts with West Michigan and family ties. Peyton and Reed were on one side, Jeff and Lester on the other, and John and the rest of the family were in the crowd at Spartan Stadium.
“It’s exciting to see that, but you’re torn,” said Jeff. “We both want to win, but we always want the best for each other.” ….when it’s all over and that game is over, I’m really excited to get back to my new opponent’s plan…to root for Peyton and be a Michigan State fan again.”