Clayton Thorson Jersey

When Chad Thorson strolls into a Steak ’n Shake in Indianapolis, he turns heads.

It happens at the Potbelly on Washington Street too. The cashiers swear Thorson is Peyton Manning. So you can imagine the reaction when Thorson appears within 50 miles of Lucas Oil Stadium.

And how’s this for a juicy topping? Clayton Thorson and his brothers will play along, asking their dad just loud enough: “Hey, when’s Uncle Eli coming to town?”

During one visit a waiter remarked: “Mr. Thorson, it wasn’t until you gave me your credit card that I knew it wasn’t Peyton Manning.”

So Chad Thorson, Clayton’s father, is not the five-time NFL MVP and ace pitchman. But Manning is a family friend. His agent, Tom Condon, is also the agent for Clayton Thorson, the former Northwestern quarterback.

And speaking of connections: Before the 1990 draft, ESPN analyst Mel Kiper heralded Chad Thorson, linebacker from Wheaton College, as a sleeper.

Want your mind blown? Kiper remembers doing it. Vividly.

“He was a tackling machine, a phenomenal player, a 3-4 inside linebacker,” Kiper said. “I had him 6-2 and about 239, 240 (pounds). What hurt him was that he ran a 5.05 (40-yard dash) at the combine, but he was a dominant performer at a lower level of competition. All over the field.”

There were 12 rounds that year. More than 330 players were drafted. Thorson was not selected. It was 29 years ago.

READ MORE: Which local prospects will hear their names called in the 2019 NFL draft? »

And now Kiper is grading Clayton Thorson, taller and trimmer than his dad at 6-foot-4 and 222 pounds. Kiper projects him to go in the fourth round Saturday.

“Before you know it,” Kiper joked, “I’m going to be scouting Clayton Thorson’s kids.”

Chad Thorson recalls the Chargers and Giants saying they would draft him in 1990, but neither did. It was the first year juniors were eligible for the NFL draft, and the linebacker group was so strong, seven went in the top 18. (The Giants snagged a future Pro Bowl kicker, Matt Stover, with their final selection.)

Thorson recalls being the first Division III player to participate in the Senior Bowl and thought he would be a mid-round pick, so it stung. But the Giants signed him right after the draft, and he celebrated at his family’s home in Columbus, Ohio, with fiancee Shauna.

He reported to training camp in New Jersey. His coaches were Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick (defensive coordinator) and Al Groh (linebackers). Romeo Crennel coached the defensive line, and Charlie Weis helped with special teams.

“To see that expertise,” Thorson said, “you can understand why they won the Super Bowl.”

Thorson recalls a bit of razzing — “Where is Wheaton College?” — but no hazing. The Gulf War broke out in August 1990, and Thorson says they talked politics; he was a political science major at Wheaton.

“Pepper Johnson went to Ohio State; he was someone I looked up to,” Thorson said. “Carl Banks became a close friend. LT is arguably the greatest defensive player in NFL history. He held out that training camp but was there the next one. They were happy and willing to show me how to shed blockers. They said: ‘Hey, let’s get the second- and third-team guys better.’ It was the epitome of team.

“And they used to tell us: ‘Don’t watch film of LT. What he’s doing, you can’t do.’ ”

That professionalism permeated the organization. Before the Giants’ final preseason game, players were brought by bus from the team hotel to the stadium.

“If they were going to cut you,” Thorson said, “they’d grab you before you turned left into the locker room.”

After Thorson made it in safely, he thought: Oh, my goodness. Then Parcells found him and told him the team had tried to trade running back Joe Morris to open a roster spot.

Thorson long-snapped and played linebacker for the Birmingham Fire of the World League of American Football. The Eagles signed him and kept him for six weeks. The Giants picked him off waivers, and he spent 1991 on injured reserve. After the Colts released him in 1992, he moved to Wheaton and got a job in financial services, selling bonds.

He’s now an executive at Performance Trust Capital Partners. He and Shauna have five children: Hunter, Luke, Clayton, Molly and Ben. Three are married, including Clayton, 23, with another wedding scheduled for June.

When it comes to settling down, this family runs the two-minute drill.

Thorson started 53 games for Northwestern, beginning his senior season less than eight months after ACL reconstruction surgery on his right knee. He threw for 10,731 yards, but his 58.4 completion percentage was middling.

Asked what he believes Thorson must do to have a good NFL career, Kiper said: “Getting healthy. Getting back to where he was. He was limited (last season), playing at less than 100 percent. I give him a lot of credit for playing and being an inspiration and leading them to a lot of victories. He certainly has an NFL arm. He’s a smart kid, a tough kid. Once he gets back to 100 percent, I think Clayton Thorson has a chance to be a starting quarterback in the NFL.”

Thorson will watch the draft with family members in Wheaton, breaking for the occasional game of touch football. (He’s the automatic QB.) On Saturday he’ll throw with former NFL quarterback Kent Graham, his longtime personal coach.

His father remains Clayton’s role model. They view football the same way — a huge part of Clayton’s life, but not his life.

Shareef Miller Jersey

As far as inspirational inner city-to-the-NFL stories go, Shareef Miller’s meets all the typical criteria.

He’s from a rough neighborhood, was raised in a single-parent household and suffered unfathomable loss at the hands

of violence. As inspirational as his story is, it’s not all that uncommon in the NFL. He’s not even the only player

in the Eagles’ locker room with a similar backstory.

This difference is that Miller is from here. He’s ours.

And now, after getting drafted by the Eagles — a moment he said was “surreal” — he feels an obligation to not just

produce on the football field, but to also be an inspiration to kids who grew up where he grew up and who face the

same struggles daily that he was able to overcome.

“That’s really going to help my community,” Miller said on Saturday. “It’s really going to change a lot of

things. It’s going to give these kids someone to look up to. That’s what it’s all about. I’m happy I’ve been put

in this situation so I can shed light on the younger kids coming up in this generation.”

Miller, whom the Eagles drafted with the last pick in the fourth round on Friday, grew up in the Frankford section of

the city. He went to Frankford High before transferring to George Washington High, a decision orchestrated by his

mother that he said “changed his life.”

But just before he went to Penn State, Miller’s older brother, Mikal, was shot and killed in 2015. The loss of his

role model hit Miller hard. Hard enough that he even considered not going to Penn State. But his mother, Tekeya Cook,

has been his rock. According to Miller, she kept him level-headed and pointed in the right direction.

Mom is such a rock that during their celebration on Saturday — Miller and his family rented a loft in northeast

Philly to watch the draft — she told her son that it’s now time to get to work.

Miller will be on the field at the NovaCare Complex soon enough for rookie minicamp and then OTAs, but his work as a

role model is already well underway. First, kids from his old neighborhood saw him go to a Division I school, but now

they’re going to see him play in the NFL about 15 minutes away from their homes.

Miller isn’t taking his role as an inspiration and mentor to local kids lightly.

It can be tough for a professional athlete to play in their home city. There’s extra pressure and there’s a natural

trap of falling in with the wrong people. A few years ago, when I profiled Brandon Graham, he told me one of the

biggest realizations in his life was that when he went back to Detroit, he just couldn’t hang out with the same

people like he used to. It’s tough, but he had to cut some destructive people out of his life.

That might not be easy for Miller, who is just 22. But that process already started when he transferred high schools

many years ago. He said he has a small group of people in his support system, people who want the best for him.

Miller doesn’t think playing in his hometown will be a distraction. If anything, he sees it as a huge positive.

There are a bunch of kids who are growing up just like him who will likely agree.