Summer 2024

Michigan State QB Payton Thorne looks to God while leading resurgent Spartans

As the Michigan State coaching staff was thinking about offering a scholarship to quarterback Payton Thorne during his senior year of high school, they saw a lot of similarities between Thorne and a former Michigan State star.

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“Payton reminded them a lot of Kirk Cousins,” Mike Stine, Thorne’s high school coach, said last year in an interview with The Athletic. “I mean, they used that analogy a lot, recruiting and talking to me, that Payton reminded them a lot of Kirk Cousins. Payton checked all those boxes. All you have to do is sit down and talk with him for a little bit and you see that. I think that’s why he’s such a leader.”

The similarities don’t stop there: Faith plays an important role in the lives of both quarterbacks as well.

Thorne gave the glory to God following the Spartans’ 37-33 victory over archrival Michigan on Oct. 30 to move to 8-0 on the season.

“None of this happens without my Heavenly Father,” Thorne said. “That is what everything points to. I look to Him for everything and I can’t be more thankful for all that He has done for me.”

Another key contributor in the program’s resurgence — MSU is now 9-1, its most wins since a 10-3 season in 2017 — is wide receiver Jaden Reed, a longtime friend of Thorne’s. Following the Michigan victory, the QB gave thanks to God for the journey he and Reed have been on together.

“I see [Reed] in the locker room after the game, and I gave him a big hug,” the redshirt sophomore said. “It’s just like, man, this is awesome. This is what I’ve dreamt of my whole life, to play in a game like this. To do it with my lifelong friend like that, what more can you ask? Definitely blessed and it’s only God.”

The Naperville, Illinois, native is used to winning over locker rooms, coaches and fans at this point. He started his high school career as a wide receiver at Metea Valley in Aurora, Illinois, before becoming the team’s starting quarterback as a sophomore.

Thorne then transferred to Naperville Central High School and started the process of earning the trust of his new teammates, which didn’t take long. He threw for 5,367 yards and 65 touchdowns in two seasons

Without an offer from a Power 5 school, Thorne committed to Western Michigan near the end of his junior year. It wasn’t until his high school career was almost done that Michigan State extended an offer after another quarterback decommitted.

After redshirting the 2019 season, Thorne had to prove himself all over again when Mel Tucker became the Spartans head coach last season. Thorne played in four games and got his first start in a 39-24 loss to Penn State.

He was the team’s starting quarterback from the get-go this season and has helped propel Michigan State (No. 7 in the latest AP poll) into the College Football Playoff conversation. He threw for 287 yards and four touchdowns as the Spartans rebounded from their first loss of the season (40-29 to Purdue on Nov. 6) with a 40-21 win against Maryland this past Saturday.

That win set the stage for this coming Saturday’s showdown with Ohio State (9-1, No. 5 in latest AP poll) that will determine who has control of the Big Ten East heading into the final game of the regular season. Thorne did not shy away from the challenge when asked about it after the Maryland game.

“We know who we’re playing,” he said. “We know where we’re going. It’s at their place … In order to get to Indy (where the Big Ten Championship Game will be played), you’ve got to go through Columbus, and we know that.”

Kickoff from Columbus is scheduled for noon ET and the game will be broadcast on ABC.

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