Former Leamington opening bowler Grant Thornton has made the move to professional county cricket five years after thinking it was too late.
The 24-year-old played for Warwickshire Under-19s as a teenager but after not being offered a full-time contract he decided to throw himself into education, accepting a place studying Sport and Exercise Science at Coventry University.
Thornton was awarded the university’s sports scholarship after impressing in the Birmingham League and, five years after having his dreams dashed, has finished his degree and secured his first professional contract with Warwickshire CCC.
He said: “I have always loved cricket but I thought it was too late to make a career from it because at the age of 24 I’d never had a professional contract.
“After I decided to give up and go to university I didn’t give it much thought. I was given the sports scholarship and that helped me focus on my degree and train so I could keep playing at weekends.
“I enjoyed playing on the second team [at Warwickshire] and studying and left it at that. I never imagined it would lead to this and I would come out of it with a degree and a position with Warwickshire.
“But it turned into quite a year. Being able to break through into the first team was amazing. I was suddenly playing against people I’ve been watching for so long.”
Thornton, who turns out for Berkswell when he does not have county commitments, found himself bowling to the England trio of Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow and Gary Ballance in one of his early matches and admitted it was a pinch-yourself moment.
“I was nervous for the first couple of games but it’s what I always dreamt of, and it shows that you should always play to the highest standard even if it’s just weekend cricket while you’re at university.
“People often don’t think they are going to get anywhere and they don’t take it seriously. But this shows that it’s always possible.”