This article was originally written for MLive.com
From 1999 to 2002, defensive tackle John Thornton considered himself both a pupil and friend of Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz.
Thornton was drafted in the second round by Tennessee. That same year, Jeff Fisher hired Schwartz as a defensive quality control coach. The two had a great working relationship and became even closer in 2001 as each dealt with the birth of his first child.
Years later, when Schwartz was hired to coach the Detroit Lions, he reached out to Thornton who was contemplating retirement after a 10-year career.
In the end, Thornton never suited up in Honolulu Blue.
No can can accuse Schwartz of not trying.
After the Lions selected Sammie Lee Hill in the 2009 draft, the coach called his former player and immediately sold him on Hill's status as a developmental player and promised playing time.
The next day, Thornton flew up to Allen Park and was immediately impressed with the facilities, calling them "way better" than anything in Cincinnati. Passing his physical, he agreed to terms on a contract.
Something—he can't say what—didn't sit well with the big man.
Thornton felt uncomfortable with the situation. He decided on Thursday to turn down the offer, not wanting to gain extra weight to play defensive tackle nor uproot his family for a short-term contract.
Still, Thornton left Allen Park impressed with the rebuilding team.
When asked about how the Lions should continue with that rebuild, Thornton provided an interesting answer.
"If it were me, I wouldn't spend a pick that high on a tackle."
John Thornton intimately knows the defensive system Detroit wants to perfect. It involves fresh linemen to be rotated into the game and wear down the offense. Thornton isn't so sure that Schwartz needs or wants a defensive linemen so high in the draft.
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