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Back-to-back Super Bowl champ dies at 68

Junior wide receiver Garrett Brown scores on a strike from quarterback Kale Pearson as the U.S. Air Force Academy Falcons met the U.S. Naval Academy at the Academy's Falcon Stadium Oct. 4, 2014. Air Force defeated Navy 30-21 in Colorado Springs, Colo. (Air Force photo/Mike Kaplan)
February 02, 2023

Sidney Thornton, an NFL running back who twice won the Super Bowl with the Pittsburgh Steelers, has died at age 68, the team announced.

“We are saddened by the loss of former Steelers RB Sidney Thornton,” the team said in a tweet Wednesday. The cause of his death has not been announced.

A local news segment from 2018 described Thornton’s physical deterioration after retiring from football. After a stroke in 2005, half his body was left partially paralyzed, and he spent most of his day in a wheelchair, according to the report from KSLA.

Thornton was a second-round draft pick for the Steelers in 1977 and spent his entire six-season NFL career with that team. His Super Bowl championships came back-to-back in 1979 and 1980.

The Steelers Depot fan blog tweeted a memorable highlight, writing: “When I think of [Thornton], I always remember his 75-yard run against the Colts in 1979, the longest play the team had that season.”

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He returned to professional football in 1984 to play a season with the Oklahoma Outlaws in the United States Football League. After his football career, he coached the sport at a high school in Coushatta, Louisiana, according to Bleacher Report.

Nicknamed “Thundering Bull,” Thornton broke Northwestern State University’s career rushing record with 2,662 yards while playing for its Demons football team, according to the school. 

“I don’t know if I ever saw anyone run harder than Sidney Thornton,” said Dan McDonald, an NSU student and sportswriter at the time. “There wasn’t anything cute about his style. It was ‘I’m running it right here, and if you’re in the way you’re going to get hit regardless of what jersey you’re wearing.’

The NSU Demons tweeted Tuesday: “The Demon family mourns the loss of Sidney Thornton, an N-Club Hall of Famer and a two-time Super Bowl champion with the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

“There was only one “Thundering Bull,” and he will be missed greatly.