Patriots

Clayton Thorson’s OC talks about his development, smarts and potential as a backup to Tom Brady

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(Photo Courtesy Northwestern Athletics)

Northwestern offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mick McCall has a simple way to describe Clayton Thorson.

“He’s a film dirtbag,” McCall said with a laugh when asked how he’d best describe the quarterback who just wrapped up a four-year career with the Wildcats and is expected to be a mid-round pick in this year’s draft.

The 6-foot-4, 226-pounder finished his carer at Northwestern with a 58 percent completion rate, to go along with 10,731 passing yards and 61 touchdowns. Not eye-popping numbers when stacked against the rest of this quarterback class, but when you consider Thorson’s injury history in college, he projects as a potential buy-low pick who could pay dividends down the road for a team like New England that's always on the lookout for an additional arm.

The son of a former NFL linebacker who played with the Giants and Eagles (and we all know Bill Belichick has an affinity for guys who grew up in the game of football), Thorson became the first freshman quarterback to guide the Wildcats to a 10-win season. He also starred as a sophomore — in 2016, he completed 280 of 478 passes for 3,182 yards and a school record 22 touchdowns. However, his last two years, he struggled with consistency, but it’s fair to attribute at least some of that to an ACL injury and ankle injuries he sustained along the way, the latter of which kept him out of the Senior Bowl.

But in the end, his four seasons at Northwestern allowed him to etch his name in the Big 10 record books. He started the most games by a quarterback in Big Ten history (53), became the sixth player in Big Ten history to surpass 10,000 career passing yards, and is the only quarterback in Big Ten history to pass for 10,000 yards and rush for 20 touchdowns in his career. All of that despite having a distinct lack of NFL talent around him.

The throws aren’t enough to put him in the conversation with some of the other first rounders, but there’s enough there to make him a developmental prospect, at least in the eyes of many talent evaluators. For his part, McCall is convinced that sort of resume will attract plenty of suitors at the next level for a few reasons, including his leadership, his technique, footwork and size, all of which reached new levels after spending time