KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A father’s love knows no distance, but a father could always use a little help.
“It was incredibly generous of a friend to do something like that,” Western Michigan University offensive coordinator Jeff Thorne said. “So I feel really … fortunate and blessed.”
Last season, before Jeff Thorne was named the offensive coordinator at WMU, he was the head coach at North Central College. At the time, his son Payton Thorne was the starting quarterback for Michigan State University. As a coach, finding free time is difficult, let alone trying to watch your son play at a school miles away.
But an old friend of his helped answer a prayer.
“It was a case where my games were ending, I was running to the local airport and he was there and off we went,” Jeff Thorne said. “I literally had prayed for somebody with a private jet to show up in my life.”
His friend owns a private jet and flew him to a handful of MSU games last season. It ended up being a season worth being there for: Payton Thorne broke a MSU record with 27 touchdown passes, which were the most by any quarterback in a season. It was nothing short of expectations for the son of a college coach.
“Oh yeah, he had a football in his hands day one,” his father said. “In fact, I think there were three of them. It’s just always been a part of what’s made us our family and who we are.”
“He wanted nothing more than to be at those games and be able to experience just everything that comes with the game,” Payton Thorne said. “You can watch it on TV, but you can’t feel the environment, and that was something that he was excited to be able do. It means a lot to me to have a father who cares as much as he does about me and loves me, and he’s done more than I could imagine for me throughout my life. So I’m extremely thankful for him.”
Jeff Thorne was able attend nearly half of his son’s games last season, which was a lot more than he even expected. But this year, there’s a game circled on the calendar that he won’t need a jet for.
“I’ve played against my dad my whole life. In the front yard, in basketball, … football when I was like five,” Payton Thorne said.
This won’t be anything quite like that. When Jeff Thorne make his offensive coordinator debut with the Broncos, Payton Thorne will be on the other side of the field playing with the Spartans.
“He’s going to be distracted, trying to watch me, because that’s what he’s been used to his whole life, is watching his son play,” Payton Thorne said. “So it’ll be interesting, and I know he’s going to be happy when that games over and he can go back to being a normal coach.”
“I think at the end of the day, I want to get out of the game, with (Payton) healthy,” Jeff Thorne said. “And ideally we come out on top.”
WMU travels to MSU for the season opener on Friday. Kickoff is a 7:00 p.m. at Spartan Stadium.