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First-year free safety Juan Thornhill will look to continue his unrivaled success at the college level

STL profiles future VHSL Hall-of-Famer Juan Thornhill

All he does is win, win, win no matter what.


Between March of his sophomore and senior seasons of high school, 2015 Virginia signee Juan Thornhill brought home five, that's right, five state titles (three in basketball, two in football).

With his unbelievable stats and unparalleled success, Thornhill would have certainly had his options coming out of high school, but the multi-sport phenom knew exactly where he wanted to be from the start. Thornhill  committed to play football at Virginia in the fall of his junior season, and carried the flag for the Wahoos' class of 2015 for over a year.

Similar to former UVa-standout Vic Hall, Thornhill was a once-in-a-generation type athlete for a school like Altavista. Thornhill will look to become the next great Virginia-great from a small school, joining the likes of Hall, Cedric Peerman, and of course Heath Miller.

The 6-1, 200 pound Thornhill played quarterback, free safety, and returner for the Colonels, but will spend his college career in the secondary. If there is one thing that defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta values more than speed, it's smarts. Tenuta wants his safeties to be able to read the offenses' plays, and then relay the information to the rest of the defense. Having a former quarterback at the safety position is ideal in UVa's defense (see Anthony Harris), and Thornhill's brain among everything else could be his ticket to early playing time.

Let's take a closer look at this dynamic athlete.


Name: Juan Thornhill

High School: Altavista (Altavista Va)

Ranking: Rivals/247/ESPN 3-star

Starting experience: Four years

Recognition: Five-time State Champion, Two-time All-State football selection, 2014 Group 1 VHSL Player of the Year, Group 1 VHSL Quarterback of the Year, News Advance Defensive Football Player of the Year, eclipsed 1,000 career points for the Altavista basketball program.

Film study:

While the lion's share of Thornhill highlights are from offense, the first-year safety displays his ability to lay the lumber on defense. Watch at the .38 second mark as the Thornhill blindsides a poor opposing wide receiver with a vicious hit. Thornhill accounted for all-three touchdowns in the state title game, but that bone-crushing hit was arguably the highlight the day.

At 200 pounds and over six-feet tall, Thornhill comes into the program with already good size for the safety position. Thornhill is not the fastest defensive back, but his frame allows him to cover a great deal of ground in the secondary. As mentioned above, Thornhill often uses his quarterback smarts to read the opposing offense, and is rarely caught out of position.

The true freshman may struggle bringing down bigger running backs from the get-go, but Thornhill is quick to react against the run, and demonstrates excellent pursuit, while not being fooled. Thornhill is able to chase down faster running backs thanks to his long stride and wide range.

Thornhill mainly stayed at safety throughout his high school career, but he also spent time at cornerback. Similar to Anthony Harris, Thornhill brings the necessary football IQ, as well as the coverage skills needed to play safety at the college level.

Freshman impact:

While Thornhill could benefit from a redshirt year, his skills and lack-of-safety depth may force the the former Altavista great onto the field.

Harris' graduation and Malcolm Cook's move to linebacker creates a huge void in the secondary. Quin Blanding is the unquestioned starter, but Thornhill is the only other true free safety on the roster.

Nobody will question Thornhill's intangibles, but if he is to see the field early, the VHSL Group 1 Player of the Year will need to adjust to the level of competition in a hurry. UCLA, Notre Dame, and Boise State are all a far cry from what Thornhill is used to seeing in the Dogwood District.

Thornhill could also be an asset on special teams, either in coverage or in the return game. The multidimensional athlete average 35.2 yards per kick return in 2014.

Whether he plays a little or a lot this season, Thornhill's future is extremely bright, and he will be one of the cornerstones of the Virginia defense for years to come.