With the Bison trailing by four in the second quarter of the FCS National Championship game, Carson Wentz and the Bison offense needed a touchdown when they reached Illinois State’s six-yard line. On third and goal, Wentz dropped back and hit an emerging red zone threat, junior tight end Luke Albers, for NDSU’s first touchdown.
As the crowd roared and Wentz pumped his fist in excitement, Albers turned to the sky and pointed his index, middle and pinky fingers toward the sky, forming the number 21 to honor his old teammate and friend that died three years ago.
Dylan John Thorne, 18, was driving home from work July 19th, 2012, when his vehicle was struck by a drunk driver on Highway E., in St. Lawrence, Wis. Thorne died at the scene.
“I saw a lot of posts from my friends (on Facebook) asking who was in that accident and a couple tweets asking what is going on,” Albers said. “I got a feeling it was someone I knew, someone I would be familiar with, that this had happened to.”
Dave Albers, Luke’s father, called his son in Fargo to deliver the devastating news that one of his son’s former football, basketball and baseball teammates at Iola-Scandinavia High School had been killed.
“I picked up the phone. His voice was broken and he was crying. He told me what happened and I just broke down,” remembers Luke Albers. “At that point, I was living with Ben LeCompte and he came in and we talked about it for a while and just, that was one of the hardest days, really, of my life. It’s still tough to think about it.”
Thorne moved to the Iola-Scandinavia School District with his parents Liz and Tim Thorne when he was in middle school. He immediately made friends with Cole, Luke Albers’ stepbrother.
Dave Albers coached the town’s summer baseball team and that’s when Lucas Albers met Dylan. The three boys became inseparable until Dylan’s death, said Liz Thorne.[/text_output]
[image type=”none” float=”none” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover” src=”3752″ alt=”Dylan John Thorne Memorial Ride ” link=”true”]
[image type=”none” float=”none” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover” src=”3753″ alt=”Dylan John Thorne Memorial Ride ” link=”true”]
[image type=”none” float=”none” link=”true” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover” src=”3754″ alt=”Dylan John Thorne Memorial Ride “]
[text_output]The hand gesture used by Luke Albers is his way of paying tribute to his friend he speaks to in the corner of the end zone before every football game.
He explains sensing Dylan Thorne’s presence on the field with him while playing. During the Northern Iowa game last year, he said he was with him while he lay injured on the UNI-Dome turf.
Luke Albers was struck by a defender in the knee while attempting to catch a pass, then he collapsed. While laying in agony, a voice came to him. “You have to get up, man,” Albers remembers hearing. After the game, he asked Zach Vraa and Joe Haeg, who were huddled around the injured tight end after the play if they’d said anything. Vraa and Haeg shook their heads “No.”
It was Dylan Thorne’s voice.
Dylan Thorne was a year younger than Luke Albers and was a cornerback for Iola-Scandinavia for three years while the tight end was there. Today, Luke Albers plays with him in his heart and on his wrist, wearing a pink band on his right arm in his memory.
The towns of Iola and Scandinavia commemorate the memory of Dylan Thorne to this day.
This July was the third year “angel-versary” of his death, says his mother Liz Thorne.
Every year, with the help of Luke Albers’ stepmother, Tina, the town gets together for an afternoon for the Dylan John Thorne Memorial Ride. This 100-mile motorcycle ride memorializes Dylan Thorne and raises awareness of the horrors of drinking and driving while the donations go toward Thunderbird Stadium, where the Iola-Scandinavia School District uses the money raised for a locker room for the football team. More than 200 people participated in the ride this year.
“When Dylan had died, the community came out and supported our family and friends,” Liz Thorne said. “We just want to give back to the community through our experience. I know people have, and even older people, not just teenagers, that have re-evaluated their life and when they go out and stuff like that to where they might’ve had a few, or even more than a few, then get behind the wheel. They’ve put a halt to that. They would not want to be the cause of somebody’s heartache.”
Luke Albers and his family have remained close to the Thornes and even invited them to a Bison football game last year.
“There are so many Bison fans in the Iola area, it is not funny,” laughs Liz Thorne. “It’s really cool. I love to see the kids go out and play football and I love watching Lucas play.”
The Thornes will try to get to another one of Luke Albers’s games this season. And he knows Dylan Thorne’s spirit will be with him either way, on and off the field.[/text_output]