It is often said that coaching is in one's blood. In the Thornton family, there's no doubt it's true.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have named Riverview High School Head Coach Mike Thornton their first Coach of the Week for the 2012 season. Thornton, 32, is a third-generation coach who, in January, took over the Sharks, a football program that has recently experienced some challenging years.
Last Friday, the Sharks won their first game of the season, 24-17, over the Spoto High Spartans. This marked the first time the Sharks had beaten a team other than Leto High School, a local rival, since November of 2009.
"It was big to get the monkey off of our back," Thornton said. "We just wanted to play well and obviously coming out on top, first game of the season, sets the ball in motion."
The win was not without drama. In the game's final moments, Riverview led by seven, needing only a first down to seal a victory. Facing third-and-six, one of Riverview's linemen committed a false start.
"I was thinking, 'We are going to have to punt and play great defense,'" Thornton said, but fortunately his offense delivered. "Our quarterback did a heck of a job on option, and he read it correctly. He turned it up and got eleven-and-a-half yards and sustained the drive."
Despite the program's recent history, Thornton didn't view the coaching opportunity as a challenge; instead, it was a chance to do something special. Making the situation even more attractive were his ties to the area, as he played high school football at East Bay before getting a degree from the University of Florida.
"It was a blessing to have the opportunity to come back home," Thornton said. "The principal that opened Riverview was the principal that hired my dad at East Bay."
Family is one of the most important influences in Thornton's life. His father, Brian Thornton, coached at East Bay for 17 years and amassed 97 career wins. Brian was also honored as a Buccaneers Coach of the Week winner back in 2000 under then-Head Coach Tony Dungy.
On Thursday, it was the younger Thornton's turn. He arrived at One Buccaneer Place with his wife, Jessie, and son, Colby, and the three were led through the Buccaneers' state-of-the-art facility to watch the team practice. Buccaneers Head Coach Greg Schiano greeted the group and congratulated Thornton on the honor. In addition, the high school coach will receive a signed certificate, a Buccaneers embroidered hat, and a $1,000 donation towards the school's football program.
The Buccaneers will honor 10 high school coaches from Central Florida during this year's prep football season. A Coach of the Year, who receives an additional $1,000 for his football program, will be selected from the 10 weekly winners at the end of the season. The Buccaneers and the National Football League's Coach of the Week program aids in the development of youth football, which has a positive influence on young athletes and the communities in which they live.