Behind The Style of Dallas Sports Writer Matt Thornton
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Garland, Texas, the adopted son of Mike and Ruth Thornton who are both career Dallas Independent School District teachers. My mom taught English and my Dad taught history in the inner city schools such as Carter High School, Roosevelt, and Spruce to name just a few. My dad also was a History Professor at Dallas County Community College and eventually was promoted to a counselor in DISD. My mom maintained her status as a teacher in DISD retiring a few years ago, but she still substitute teaches in Garland Independent School District. I credit my Mom drilling me on my English papers and use of proper grammar with my writing talents. While I did not necessarily enjoy writing as a student, I was always sure to pay special attention to my assignments because, to this day, she is the toughest Editor I’ve ever known! My Grandfather told me that I am kin to the late great former Dallas Mayor R.L. (Robert Lee) Thornton. I’m not exactly sure how we are related to R.L. aka “Mr. Dallas”, but I would love to discover the specifics someday. I am a Dallasite through and through. I love my city, and am an unabashed, completely biased Dallas proponent.
What schools did you attend?
I graduated from South Garland High School, then went on to Southern Methodist University. My parents could not afford SMU, so I worked full time to obtain an employee scholarship which paid for part of my courses. When my ex-wife and I found out we were pregnant with our first child, I left SMU to make more money as an IT consultant for KPMG, and I eventually graduated with an online degree.
Did you play any sports growing up?
I played soccer from the age of 4 all the way through playing in SMU’s Intramural soccer league. I absolutely love the “beautiful game” as soccer is known, and was coached by many of the Dallas Sidekicks legends growing up like Tatu and Krys Sobieski, to name a couple. My passion for soccer is what has led me to the opportunity to be the Color Commentator for the Dallas Sidekicks TV broadcasts on Spectrum Sports. I also started swimming competitively for the Garland Gators Swim Club when I was around ten years old, and swam all the way through high school for the South Garland varsity team. I LOVED to watch football with my Grandpa Joe. Grandpa was an original season ticket holder for the Dallas Cowboys at the Cotton Bowl. Every Sunday I would watch the games with him and he would explain to me what was going on. Some of my most fond memories are of me and Grandpa sitting in his “football room” watching Cowboys games and eating jelly beans.
Who is your all time favorite athlete, and why?
Growing up, my favorite athlete was the great Dallas Cowboys Safety Bill Bates. I admired Bill’s tenacity, his grittiness, and his willingness to do the hard jobs on special teams or on defense that nobody else wanted to do. Every year that Bates played for the Cowboys, it seemed the coaches (Jimmy Johnson in particular) would try to find a way to cut him; but every year he fought his heart out and made the team. Bill made an appearance at my church (Lake Pointe Baptist Church at the time) and he gave his testimony of salvation, which inspired me to be baptized and place my faith in Jesus Christ. I thought that if a man who was a BEAST on the field, strong, courageous, and one of my heroes would humble himself before the Lord, then I could too. I was honored to have dinner with Bill a couple years ago and shared my testimony with him. It was truly a wonderful moment.
As an adult, I have grown a great admiration for the “Original 88” Drew Pearson. In full transparency, I co-host a radio show with Drew, so I may seem a little biased. But, I’ve developed a friendship with Drew. He has mentored me in my media career and has shown me how to go about my business being a professional sports journalist. Drew is always available to people and is such a wonderful ambassador for the Cowboys. He’s a great man and I owe a lot to him for the success of my media career.
What’s your favorite movie?
The 1993 movie “Rudy” starring Sean Astin. Rudy is a coming-of-age movie about football, and a kid who struggles to achieve what everyone told him he never could. I identify so much with Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger. It took him years struggling through the grind of constant obstacles to eventually accomplish what he never should have been able to accomplish. I’ve faced challenges in the way Rudy has, and I’m always encouraged when I watch the film. I’ve probably seen it 200 times and I’ll probably watch it 400 times more, haha.
What made you decide to start writing?
Funny enough, it was kind of a dare. In addition to the skills my Mom taught me as a writer growing up, I have been a technical IT writer for my entire career. Most of my writing was contracts, presentations, responses to Requests for Proposals, resumes, etc., but it was writing none-the-less. I am an avid fan of the Dallas Cowboys, and one day I noticed that a Fansided owned property named The Landry Hat (which was syndicated by SI.com) was looking for a Featured Writer to cover the Cowboys. I mentioned it to a couple of friends and my then ex-wife, and they suggested I throw my resume, an application, and a sample over the wall to the Editors. I knew I had no experience covering the NFL, and fully expected to never hear from the publication, but the next day the Editor-in-Chief sent me an email and said the Featured Writer position was mine. I couldn’t believe it! Literally, overnight, I became a writer and I’ve never looked back since then. I love to write. Words are powerful and using my words for good, and in my hopes, positive uplifting entertainment is such a joy.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Create great content!!! I know that sounds obvious, and like a “thanks captain obvious” type statement, but it’s so easy for people to lose focus of that. I tell people I mentor all the time that if they focus on creating quality content, then people will consume it. There’s no secret to success to being a successful writer other than that; just write stuff people want to read. Forget about the noise of how many people read your work, or who’s reading, or when they’re reading it, and focus on quality. Quality over quantity!
What made you venture into radio?
My venturing into radio was another “happenstance” type situation. There is a morning show host named Erin Wilde on 92.1 Hank FM in Ft. Worth who read one of my articles and enjoyed it. She reached out to me and asked if I wanted to do a quick sports segment with her on her morning show. I said I had never done radio before, but that I would give it a shot. I was incredibly nervous that first segment, but I got through it and Erin asked me to come back the following week. I did that for a few months with Erin and loved every minute of it. At some point, the Producer for the Drew Pearson Live TV show (Jim Proctor) heard my segment and asked me to come to the taping of one of his shows in Dallas. I hit it off with Jim and Drew, and they asked me if I wanted to do the “Sports Desk” segment on one show with Drew. Of course, I accepted that opportunity, even though I had zero television experience. I performed one take of the segment with Drew, and at the end Drew looked at me, gave me a fist bump, and said, “Man, we work well together.” The next day Producer Jim called me and said, “Matt, the Sports Desk segment is yours if you want it.” It was a blessing and an honor to have the opportunity to work with Drew, Jim, and the DPL team for that season. Drew decided to take the show from TV to radio, and for the past year, I’ve been the co-host of Drew Pearson Live radio on GCNLive.com from 12-1 PM CST every Monday through Friday. That show led me to meet my friend Cruz on KISS FM who reached out to me one day letting me know that Cindy Scull on 97.1 KEGL Dallas was looking for a sports segment host. I connected with Cindy (aka Scully) and we’ve been doing that segment together for a while now. I am also the Creator/Host of a faith-based sports radio show called Cross Sports Talk with my friend former Dallas Cowboys linebacker Eugene “The Hittin’ Machine” Lockhart where we discuss our spiritual journey and sports, two of our favorite topics. Again, when you create good content, people will notice.
If you weren’t writing or on the radio what would you do?
I would be a boring Information Technology Executive…ha-ha. Many people don’t realize that in order to make ends-meet, local media/news/sports journalists have to maintain multiple streams of income, often having 9-5 jobs outside of media. It’s very difficult to do, but in order to pursue our passion of media, we have to have another job. So, I have never really thought about what I would do because I would have no time to do it anyhow.
Did you have to overcome any challenges or fears to start your career?
Absolutely! Every time I go on-air I am nervous and I have doubts about my skills and abilities. The first time I went on the radio, I was beyond nervous. When I first looked into that deep, staring eye of the TV camera on Drew Pearson Live, I thought I was going to faint. But, you have to prepare ahead of time, maintain your faith, and face your fear head-on, and in my experience, you will come out successful. Experience is the great teacher, and you can’t get enough of it, no matter how fearful the task at hand may be. Never let fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) tell you what you can or can’t do!
What is your inspiration?
My inspiration first and foremost is my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He strengthens me, guides me, and blesses me abundantly even though I am not deserving of His love, grace, and mercy. I know, without a doubt, that without God’s provisions I would not have any of the opportunities I have today.
What gives you strength?
In addition to God, my children are my greatest strength. They remind me daily of what’s most important in life. At the end of the day, no matter how many articles I wrote nor TV/Radio shows I’m appearing on, my legacy will live on primarily through my children. I’ve tried to teach them that while life is hard and difficult, but there are rewards to be had for the good soldier who fights the good fight. I’m not easy to my children because I know life is hard. But, if they love the Lord and serve people, they will live a joyful life.
What is the best tip you can give a young man?
Work hard, be prepared, and be slow to react. I know the last thing is probably the hardest to do, and I’m preaching to myself on that one. The worst mistakes I’ve made in my life were usually a result of me reacting too quickly without having all the information. As a young man, I believed I knew everything, and had all the data. The older I get, the more I realize I usually know only a small bit of the story from usually only one perspective. It’s very important to take the information you are given and think about it before you respond. Also, prepare prepare prepare. Even when you think to yourself you have it “in the bag”, do your research. You can never have enough information going into a situation. Before I conduct an interview on the Dallas Sidekicks broadcasts, on Drew Pearson Live, or conduct a segment on 97.1, I will prepare a list of questions. I always prepare a few extra questions because I never know how long or short the athlete’s answers will be. More times than not I have to use those additional questions to get the full segment. It’s little things like that which make all the difference. Finally, work hard! I tell people all the time that I am not the smartest, most talented, nor best looking journalist in Dallas. In fact, you could argue I’m very average in all of those categories. But, I will never be out-worked. I practice every day. I educate myself and open up to new opportunities to learn constantly. I listen to journalists who have more experience than me and emulate what they do. I consistently stay close to the teams I cover and the influencers around those teams. The second a journalist becomes complacent, is the moment that journalist is irrelevant. Pride comes before the fall. I try to work like there are 10 people trying to take my job, and in this business, there usually are.
Is it challenging being a Dad in media?
It’s very difficult to be a Dad in media. As I mentioned before, we work 9-5 jobs, then we cover the games which often fall at night and on weekends. It’s a lot of time away, so the time I do get with my children is precious to me. For me too, my kiddos aren’t exactly huge sports fans. So, in order to connect with them, I have adapted to love what they love. My son is a video gamer, so I know and play all the hottest video games a man of my age probably shouldn’t be playing…ha-ha. Both of my girls love the theater (as do I) so I always make time to support their acting. There are only so many hours in a day, and I greatly value my time with my children.
What do your kids think about your career?
It’s funny, they are totally unimpressed with it! I don’t know if they think every Dad just hangs out with guys like Dallas Mavericks F Dirk Nowitzki in the locker room after games or what? They have met so many incredible athletes, they’ve watched my television shows being filmed, and my son has joined me on a few radio broadcasts. However, I think to them I’m just Dad. My teenage daughters think I’m a nerd, and my boy just wants me to help him beat a video game level.
How has your career in technology prepared you for the Entertainment world?
My IT career, first and foremost, made me into the professional businessman I am today. Without having owned my software consulting company, Free and Thornton LLC back in the early 2000’s, I would not have known how to run my media company, Matt Thornton Media, LLC. Additionally, every media person is a “seller”. In order to have your content aired on TV, radio, published, etc., you have to have sponsors. In order to obtain sponsors, you have to be able to sell your brand and your content. Having almost two decades in IT turned me into a very good sales executive, so that has bolstered my media career.
What’s your favorite place for a date night?
If it’s a date night with my kiddos (yes, that’s important and every Dad should take their kids on ‘dates’) I like to go to one of my all-time favorite places Medieval Times Dallas, or the great Topgolf which is a blast too. There are so many amazing places in Dallas. I really like HG Sply Co on Greenville Ave (most romantic rooftop bar in Dallas) or my favorite sushi restaurant Kenichi next to the American Airlines Center. Both of those places have wonderful ambiance and incredible food.
Describe your style:
I believe I might have been born in the wrong era. I like the old days where men wore a suit, tie, and fedora every day. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy new styles, places, and people, but I also appreciate the great looks that came before us in the past. I guess if I had to summarize my style I’m 60’s-inspired trendy…is there such a thing?! I fancy myself a modern day Don Draper (I’ve been told I kind of look like him…haha)
Favorite places to shop:
For clothing, my guys at Austen Dor make the shopping experience stress free and fun. They explain the reason for a specific cut, or how a garment will fit my body-type. I love working with those guys and my TV Producers always appreciate the fact that I show up for broadcasts camera-ready, thanks to my amazing Stylist Alexandrea Cohen of Styled by Cohen and the Austen Dor team.
Favorite spot in Dallas:
Wow…Dallas is my home and there are so many fantastic places. How do you narrow down from the swanky hustle-bustle of Uptown to the chill vibe of Greenville Ave, to the trendy Harwood District, to the fun grunge of Deep Ellum. Don’t even get me started on the greatness of the Shops at Legacy in Plano, Frisco’s new Cowboys world headquarters The Star, or the gorgeous spots on Lake Ray Hubbard in Rockwall and Rowlett. Asking me to pick my favorite spot in Dallas is kind of like asking me to pick my favorite child…impossible…love them all! Next question. 🙂
Wow…another tough one. Frank Sinatra’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” is my all-time favorite song. It’s so clean, but timeless. Anything Maroon 5 is great, and I love to rock out to AC/DC. When I want some rap (my street name is Sweet Daddy T) I usually bump 2 Chainz or Eminem. I enjoy any type of music as long as it’s got a good beat and you can dance to it.
How can people follow your journey?
The highest compliment anyone can pay me is to read my articles, watch my shows, or listen to me on the radio. I’m humbled and grateful for anyone who takes the time to consume my content. You can read my articles on http://www.dallasenterainmentjournal.com or follow me on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter @MattThorntonNFL For my film career you can find me on IMDb at http://www.IMDb.me/MattThornton
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