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ELLISVILLE – David Thornton has been named the interim head football coach at Jones County Junior College, effective Jan. 1.
Thornton will take over as permanent head coach of the Bobcats on Jan. 15, pending the approval of the full JCJC Board of Trustees.
Thornton, who has served as offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach and recruiting coordinator for the past two years at JCJC, looks forward to the challenge.
"I am very excited about the opportunity," Thornton said Wednesday afternoon. "We have a lot of hard work in front of us, but I think it's going to be a lot of fun, too. It is a great league and it is a really strong league.
"We've had some success the past two years, especially in the South Division, and we played for a state championship. I am sure we are going to have a bullseye on our back, but hopefully we can build on some of that momentum we have established."
Thornton will be replacing veteran coach Ray Perkins, who resigned in December after two years as head coach of the Bobcats. Perkins guided the Bobcats to a 15-5 record, including the MACJC South Division title in 2013.
Thornton credits Perkins with putting him in a position to become the JCJC head coach.
"I would not be here if had not been for Coach Perkins," he said. "He gave me a chance to come here and I will always be appreciative of that. It was an honor to coach for him."
JCJC President Dr. Jesse Smith said Thornton is the perfect choice to lead the Bobcats.
"Coach Thornton has been a vital component of the Bobcat football program for the past two years as the offensive coordinator under former head coach Ray Perkins," he said. "His style of play is exciting to watch and is very hard for opponents to stop.
"I am very proud that Coach Perkins had laid the foundation for exceptional coaches to step forward and follow the great momentum that he and his coaching staff created these past two years. Coach Thornton embodies exactly what we are looking for in the long term."
Dr. Smith and the Board Committee met via conference call on Dec. 27 and approved Thornton as the interim coach.
Thornton's offense has put up big numbers at JCJC.
This past season, the Bobcats averaged 40.6 points per game. JCJC passed for 327.5 yards per game, which was second in the MACJC and fourth in the NJCAA. They rushed for 135.5 yards per game. JCJC averaged 463.0 yards per game, which was second in the MACJC and eighth in the NJCAA.
In 2012, the Bobcats averaged 32.8 points per game and 412.0 yards per game in Thornton's first year as offensive coordinator.
Thornton is quite familiar with the MACJC and junior college football in general, having coached at Northwest Mississippi, Southwest Mississippi and Middle Georgia Junior College.
But the biggest concern for Thornton at the moment is recruiting. National Signing Day will be on Feb. 5. Thornton and his staff will concentrate their efforts on recruiting for the next five weeks as they try to secure top talent from across the state and the Deep South.
"Of course, we were doing a lot of recruiting before the holidays, but now we will hit the ground running when it opens back up on Jan. 4," he said. "It is so important to your program and I am fortunate to have some great coaches and people on staff."
Thornton said the JCJC coaches have what he refers to as the "Four C's" of coaching.
"First, they are great coaches," he said. "Next, they have great character. They have great chemistry with each other. And they care about their players."
Thornton came to JCJC after serving as offensive coordinator at Southwest Mississippi from 2008-11. He is a native of Vernon, Ala., and a 1990 graduate of Lamar County High School (Ala.).
After high school, Thornton attended the University of the South (1990-92) in Sewanee, Tenn., where he played quarterback for the Tigers. He finished his college career at the University of Alabama-Birmingham (1992-95) where he was a running back for the Blazers. He received a bachelor's degree in secondary education from UAB in 1995 and a master's in 1998.
Thornton served UAB as a student assistant and graduate assistant from 1994-98. He coached the offensive line, tight ends and running backs during that time.
He served as offensive coordinator at Middle Georgia Junior College from 1998-2000. The Warriors were 27-8, won two NJCAA bowl games and had two top five national rankings during those three seasons.
He served as offensive coordinator at the University of West Alabama from 2001-04. At UWA, he coached two Harlon Hill South Regional finalists, three All-Americans, four All-South selections and four All-Gulf South Conference players.
While Thornton was at UWA, the Tigers rewrote numerous school rushing, passing and receiving marks. Their offense ranked fourth nationally in 2002 and 12th in 2003. UWA finished with around 4,100 yards of total offense during those two years.
Thornton became offensive coordinator at Northwest Mississippi from 2005-07 before going to Southwest.
Dr. Smith said Thornton's experience as a coach and reputation as a top-notch recruiter were important in his selection.
"He is dedicated, extremely knowledgeable of the game, as well as very respected among his peers," he said. "Our players easily connect with him and are loyal to his leadership. He is a great recruiter and very connected to the talent across the country.
"I feel very confident in his ability to lead us to the championship as well as helping the athletic department reach our graduation goals for the student-athletes, not to mention being able to bring top-notch athletes from our community and neighboring states to our college."
Thornton and his wife, Tonya, have three children: Andrew, Carson and Lizzie.
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