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2018 Chicago Sun-Times Player of the Year: Naperville Central’s Payton Thorne

Naperville Central's Payton Thorne (1) throws a pass. Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times.

Football runs deep in Naperville Central quarterback Payton Thorne’s blood.

Thorne, the 2018 Chicago Sun-Times Player of the Year, transferred to the Redhawks from Metea Valley after his sophomore year. In one season at Metea Valley and two seasons at Naperville Central, he threw for 7,008 yards and 83 touchdowns.

His big arm led Naperville Central to the second round of the Class 8A playoffs this season, and the Redhawks blew away nearly every other offense in the state statistically.

‘‘My dad sent me an email talking about our season and said that Payton might be the best high school quarterback he’s ever seen,’’ Naperville Central coach Mike Stine said.

Stine’s father is legendary Byron coach Everett Stine.

‘‘Sometimes you get kids that are quality and don’t have character, and he has both,’’ Stine said.

John Thorne, Payton’s grandfather, is a member of the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He had a 181-61 record at Wheaton Central and Wheaton-Warrenville South. Jeff Thorne, Payton’s dad, was an all-state quarterback at Wheaton Central, was a standout quarterback at Eastern Illinois and now is the coach at North Central.

‘‘My grandpa really preached sportsmanship when he was coaching,’’ said Thorne, who has signed with Western Michigan. ‘‘My grandpa’s and dad’s competitiveness is unmatched, especially my dad. I want to win more than anybody, and I think I pick that up from him.’’

Football is Thorne’s first love, but he also plays baseball and basketball for the Redhawks.

‘‘When I was in third grade, I found a flier for tackle football,’’ Thorne said. ‘‘I took it and told my parents I wanted to play, and they said no. I sat on the couch and cried.’’

Football always has come first for Thorne.

‘‘In 2006, we took North Central to play in Italy, and Payton came with us,’’ Jeff Thorne said. ‘‘I remember touring the Colosseum. I told him that it was one of the most famous stadiums in the world. He looked up and asked me, ‘Dad, how do they play football in here?’ ’’

The dedication intensified when Thorne put on a jersey and pads for the first time in fifth grade.

‘‘I used to watch this highlight video of my dad’s team over and over,’’ Thorne said. ‘‘I memorized it, and I remember some of the best plays on it were interceptions where they took it to the house. So I wanted to take it to the house.’’

Thorne, a 6-2, 190-pounder, has posted unmatched numbers the last two seasons.

‘‘They are off the charts,’’ Stine said. ‘‘What he can do on the football field is special. I think what separates him from anyone I’ve ever worked with is his leadership quality and football IQ. He’s at a level above anyone that I’ve ever coached.’’

Thorne averaged 9.7 yards a pass during his senior season and accounted for 44 touchdowns (40 passing and four rushing) for the Redhawks, who averaged 37 points.

‘‘Statistics-wise, he’s the best ever to play here at Naperville Central,’’ Stine said. ‘‘And he motivates those around him. It takes a special kid to be a leader, a special kid that people want to follow, and Payton is that.’’

It’s clear Jeff Thorne couldn’t be more proud of the person, athlete and quarterback his son has become.

‘‘At the risk of sounding corny, it’s honestly been the joy of my lifetime to be a part of this with him,’’ he said.



Passing: 207 for 319 (65%), 3,113 yards, 40 touchdowns

Rushing: 451 yards, four touchdowns

Three-year varsity career

Passing: 463 for 743 (62%) 7,008 yards, 83 touchdowns

Rushing: 1,035 yards, 14 touchdowns