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NFL Draft Diamonds Prospect Interview: Justin Thomas-Thornton, DE, Jacksonville State University

Justin Thomas-Thornton of Jacksonville State is a dog for JSU

•    Name: JustinThomas-Thornton

    •    Height: 6’5

    •    Weight: 250

    •    Position: Defensive End

    •    College: Jacksonville State University

    •    Twitter: jtbigdreams6

Tell us about yourhometown, and what you love most about it?

    •     I am from Mobile, Alabama via Prichard,AL. It is all one in

the same. I have roots in both. My hometown is along theGulf Coast, so we are known for our beautiful beaches, awesome seafood,football, and most Mardi Gras. Tourist come from far and near to relax andvacation at our beaches. We have Dauphin Island, Fairhope Beach, Gulf Shores,and Orange beach. I have to say we have the best seafood and just like ourbeaches people crave our seafood as well. You can go just about anywhere in thearea and find you some good ole seafood and some good gumbo. Football has beena tradition here in my city since I can remember. The state of Alabama is allabout football. In my city there have been so many greats that have come fromthe Mobile/ Prichard communities. Finally, we have the best Mardi Gras and itall began here in Mobile. Mardi Gras has so much history that spans back over100 years. This upcoming Mardi Gras season I have been selected to participatein the 80th year Mobile Area Mardi Gras Association Royal Court(MAMGA). MAMGA was the first African American Mardi Gras association in Mobile.Throughout the years, many prominent Mobilians have participated in the annualMardi Gras celebration events including the former U.S. Secretary of LaborAlexis Herman as Queen and the all-time greatest hitter in baseball Henry Aaronas Grand Marshal, and now my name will be added into this part of my city’shistory book.

List these threein order of importance and why: Film Study, Strength and Conditioning andPractice?

    •   Film Study is the most important aspect forgame preparation. It allows you to visually see the strengths and weakness ofyour opponent. Studying film assist you as a player in how to strategize andprepare mentally and physically for your next challenge. If a player wants tobecome better— film study is the “Blue Print” in becoming a better player andstrategist.

  • Practice, practice, and more practice is the keyto life. If you want to achieve any goal you have to practice. It’s like theold saying “Practice makes perfect”, and the more I practiced the betterathlete I became.  I don’t care howathletic one might believe they are if you do not practice you will not win orachieve anything. Practicing is the next phase of film study because now youknow how to condition and sharpen your body and techniques.
  • Strength Conditioning allows you too keep yourbody up to speed and further enhances your skill set and physical attributes.

What do you worryabout, and why?

    •    I try not to worry or at least that is whatI tell myself. Everything you do as an athlete is about discipline. I used toworry about not accomplishing my goals, but as I matured over these past fiveyears I have learned if you discipline yourself first not to worry then youtake a lot of pressure off yourself. Worrying brings unwanted stress and thatis not good for the body or your mindset. Having a good solid faith background,I have learned through my own personal experiences that there is nothing too hardfor God. It was only through God that I’ve come as far as I have, and  it is only through Him that I don’t worryabout things beyond my control, but trust in Him to give me insight andguidance in every decision and aspect of my life.

Give me an exampleof when you failed at something. How did you react and how did you overcomefailure?  

My best example of where I considered myself a failure wasmy first year at Jacksonville State University. My first year at JSU was thehardest. It was like I had to start all over again proving myself in theclassroom and on the field. I went from being on a full ride too my parentshaving to pay for my first year at JSU. This was heartbreaking within itselfbecause my parents made so many sacrifices for me. I felt like I let them down,and I at that point not lived up to my expectations. This is where my faithwent to another level because either I was going to fold or win. I chose to winI went harder on the field, I worked even harder in the classroom and in theend I won. The fall of 2017 I was placed back on full scholarship. This was allbecause I reminded myself who I was as a person and an athlete. I chose tobelieve in me and that was the turning point in my life.

What do yourteammates say is your best quality?

    •    It would be that I am a hard-workingindividual and I can get along with everyone. My ability to motivate myteammates even if I’m not on the field and being the kind of individual that goesthe extra mile for others.

Who is the bestplayer you have ever played against in college?

    •  Drew Forbes Offensive Tackle from SouthEastern Missouri University.

Drew and I were very competitive on the field during my timeat JSU.  Drew was an outstanding athleteand he challenged me on the field one on one. This is where film study was a must because I knew I had to have abetter advantage over him on the field against him.

What would yourcareer be if you couldn’t play football?

    •     I would be a psychologist, I have apassion for helping others. I guess I get it naturally because I watched mymother as a law enforcement officer and community activist always help those inneed. I saw her passion and it made me want to do the same. There are four maingoals of a psychologist: describe, explain, predict and control the behaviorand mental processes of others.  Mentalillness is on the rise and there is a need for more dedicated professionalsthat have a passion to assist other in becoming productive citizens in oursociety.  I know and believe I am a goodfit for this profession.

Room, desk, andcar – which do you clean first?

    •    Defiantly the room. I was taught before youcan do anything you have to make your bed up, and before I left for school myroom had to be clean. If you have a clean room, then the car and desk follow.This is what I was taught, and it was how I survived living with my mama. Onething about her if her room (my room) was not clean I had to deal with herwrath, and she was no joke.

If there was adisaster and you could either save three strangers or one family member, whichwould you choose and why? 

  • I would want to save as many as I could becausethat is me, but if I could give myself to save them all then that would be mychoice.

If you could beany television or movie character, who would you be and why?

    •  The Fresh Prince of Bel- Air (Will Smith) has broken so many barriers as an African American male rapper andin becoming one of the most powerful actors in Hollywood. Will Smith defied theodds a kid rapper coming from Philly and then on to dominating the main stream.He never stopped believing in himself and never let what others thought abouthim or his decisions alter his focus. I have defeated the odds so many peoplesaid I couldn’t. I defeated the odds not just as an athlete, but as a youngAfrican American male graduating and earning my college degree. Like Will SmithI never gave up on myself, and I just as he did plan on dominating in the NFL.

Tell me about yourbiggest adversity in life and how you’ve dealt with or overcome it?

    •     When I started with my recruitment processin 2013. I had academic struggles in school, and some was due to me not puttingforth effort. The most challenging obstacle was getting cleared by the NCAAplay football on the collegiate level. My g.p.a resulted in ineligibility and althoughI was highly recruited, recruiters were reluctant on recruiting me. The oddswere against me and it looked more like the JUCO route based on my high schooltranscript. My parents and I knew it was going to rough, but they provided theresources and I had to do the work. I worked extremely hard as well as myparents making sure I did do my part. I am thankful that God put the rightpeople in place that assisted my parents with the blueprint. I went from aineligible my junior year to an eligible g.p.a my senior year becoming NCAA clearedto play.

What is your mostembarrassing moment?

    •  Mobile Mardi Gras 2009 my mother left me andmy little sister with my grandmother. This particular year because I was oldenough to hang out with my older cousins. I thought I was the man, so I decidedto venture off from my cousins and hang out with another cousin and a group ofother boys who were trying to cause a disruption at the parade. So, I calledmyself wanting to be down and fit in so I followed my other cousin and thegroup. I don’t know what I was thinking especially since my mother was a sergeantfor the Mobile Police Department, on duty during that time and everybody knewmy mom.  I don’t know how my mom foundout I was in that group that day at the parade. All I remember is my motherwaking through the crowd in her police gear. I was the tallest person in thegroup, so she easily identified me. By the time I realized she was in front ofme she threw me over the barricade, and lest just say she put some old schoolon me.  I forgot to mention it was FatTuesday and when I say over 1000 people witnessed me get my tail whipped that way.I am grateful that we did not have “Live” back then because that video wouldhave gone viral. After she finished, she told my aunt to take me back to thehouse, and she went walked back to her parade assignment. Now this wasembarrassing, but I am thankful she did because that same group I was walkingwith ended up going to the local detention center later that night forshooting. As I look back I was embarrassed, but blessed because had she notleft her parade assignment that day and walked over ten blocks looking for me ,there could have been a whole different outcome.

What was the mostmemorable play of your collegiate career?

    • “The Hit”against UT Martin. The play that helped seal the win for my team and to alsowin the OVC championship. All week in practice I can remember my coach stayingon to me about reading the jet sweep and telling me who to take out if I was onthe play side. Before I made the play, I was able to read all my keys perfectlyand when the ball was snapped, I took off full speed making the biggest hit ofmy career. I felt all my teammates energy. Watching the replay, you could see thewhole sideline was pumped after seeing me make the hit

What song bestdescribes your work ethic?

    • Future – Blood,Sweat, and Tears

This song best describes what I have put into this journeyas an athlete. People don’t really know my whole story. No one knows the mentaland physical obstacles I faced, but through it all I kept grinding, I keptfighting, I kept pushing , and I kept my faith no matter what. My experienceshave taught me that everyone is not for you, and not everyone is going to thetop with you.  

“All I ever wantedfor you was to believe in me

I came, I struggled,I made it, I conquered

One hundred , I keptmy word, I kept my word, I promise

You envyingdedication and some hard work

We redefined gravity,go way beyond Earth”

What is the mostimportant trait you can have (Physical or Non-Physical) to help you succeed atthe next level?

 •  The most important trait is I would have tosay Non-Physical. Physical traits are good but can fade away. What’s deepinside of you is your true soul and it is who you are it is the trait thatdefines you as a person. I tend to not focus on what is on the outer althoughit is important, but more on working on my inner because this is how I feel Ihave succeeded. I am humble, I am dedicated, hardworking, and respectful. Theseare the Non -Physical traits that have brought me thus far and will continuetoo take me further.

If you could bringone person back from the dead for one day, who would it be and why?

    •  It would be my baby brother Brandon Jackson. He was bornDecember 6, 2000. I was four years old when he passed March 21, 2001. Iremember when he was born he had to have major surgery on his heart, and Ivisited him in a lot the hospital. I will never forget him when I am down, Ijust think about him. He is my inspiration and he will forever be in my heart.

If you were toopen a dance club, what would you name it?

    • “Grind Tyme” thename says it all

Who is the mostoverrated player in the NFL?

    •  I feel that we all can be overrated if weallow the media and others personal opinions matter. As an athlete we cannotallow the hype to get us off focus of who we truly are as individuals firstthen as an athlete. I believe once an athlete loses focus and gets caught upthen this is how I feel they succumb to the hype. If I allow myself to getcaught up in the hype or stop practicing my work ethics, I could be the nextoverrated NFL athlete. I just believe it is a matter one’s own opinion, and Ichose not to get caught up in the media hype. We all fall short so it is leftup to the individual to keep working hard and not let others define who you areas a person or athlete.

Would you ratherbe liked or respected, and why?

    • I would ratherbe respected than liked. You do not have to like me , but if I give respect Idemand respect be given back to me.

What player whohad his career derailed by off-field issues do you feel for the most and why?

Josh Gordon had so much potential in my opinion nearly NFLHall of Fame potential, but because of his off the field conduct it altered hiscareer in the NFL and in his personal life. I wished he could have overcame hisissues, and I pray that those issues will finally get addressed and he canbounce back better than ever before.

Do you love towin, or hate to lose?

    •  I know you win some and lose some but winningand losing is a state of mind. Even if I take a loss in my mind I always win.It takes dedication, discipline, and sacrifice to compete. Every week I workedhard in practice, weight room, and classroom to make it to the playing field.Losing a game only made me thrive even harder to compete week after week.

Who has been thebiggest influence on your life and explain why?

    •    I love my family it is very important toome. Both my parents and grandmother Lucille have had the most influence in mylife. My mother was the disciplinary she did not play. She gave me tough love Iwatched her give so much of herself to her family, her profession, andcommunity. She never gave up on me she was my biggest supporter she is the truedefinition of a strong independent African American. My dad always had my backif my mom would not, he would. He’s just like my mom is, my biggest supporter.He served his county and he loves his sons. He is hardworking, a dedicatedhusband to my step-mother, and very well respected among his colleagues. Hetaught me how to be a man, and I am thankful that he and I have such a closerelationship.  My Grandmother Lucille inher eyes I cannot do any wrong. She loves all her grandchildren, but because Iam the first, I am her favorite. She loves unconditional and she loves to helpothers. She filled in when my parents could not. To this day I thank God abovefor such an awesome support system, without these three individuals in my lifeonly God knows where I would be. 

NFL Draft Diamonds was created to assist the underdogs playing the sport. We call them diamonds in the rough. My name is Damond Talbot, I have worked extremely hard to help hundreds of small school players over the past several years, and will continue my mission. We have several contributors on this site, and if they contribute their name and contact will be in the piece above. You can email me at [email protected]

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