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Posted on Sun, Jan 24, 2010 : 5:57 p.m.

Former University of Michigan football walk-on ordered into jail/work program

By Art Aisner

A former University of Michigan football walk-on was ordered to participate in a jail/work program last week for his second assault conviction stemming from barroom brawls since 2007.

Robbie Thornbladh, 22, must complete the program within the first six months of his three years of probation under the terms of a sentencing agreement with Washtenaw Circuit Judge Donald Shelton. Thornbladh is also to comply with any substance abuse treatment recommended by probation department officials.

Court records indicate he also paid full restitution and court fines exceeding $2,700.

Thornbladh, a non-scholarship freshman fullback in 2006, entered into a plea deal with prosecutors just days before his December trial was to begin on multiple assault charges.

He was convicted of assault with a dangerous weapon for striking a man while holding a bottle in his hand during a fight at a downtown establishment.

Prosecutors dropped one count of aggravated assault as part of the deal. But he still faced up to four years in prison, and might have served it had he not made such significant lifestyle changes, said his attorney, Ellis Freatman.

Thornbladh attended in-patient alcohol rehabilitation, participated in support groups and refocused his life, which had an impression on the judge, Freatman said. He still attends U-M and recently served as a volunteer football coach for local youth, Freatman said.

“I’m confident the choices he’s made since this incident had an impact,” Freatman said. “He’s absolutely turned the corner.”

In 2007, Thornbladh was convicted of misdemeanor assault and battery for striking a man in a large bar fight that involved several Wolverines football players. The same jury acquitted him of assault with intent to commit great bodily harm after a three-day trial.

He was sentenced to one week in jail, one year of probation and had to wear an electronic tether, court records show.

In May 2008, he pleaded guilty to one count of violating his probation after attempting to operate a vehicle as a minor while under the influence.

He was ordered to serve two weeks in jail and fined $850, court records show.

The most recent incident occurred in February 2008 during a fight between two other men, Freatman said.

Thornbladh was trying to stay out of the fight but ended up in a confrontation with another man who was shoved in the fracas, Freatman said. Freatman insisted Thornbladh struck the man with his hand and not the bottle, but the bottle shattered, cutting both the man’s forehead and Thornbladh’s hand.

He was arrested in July after a lengthy investigation by the Ann Arbor police.

Thornbladh is the son of former Wolverine Robert “Blade” Thornbladh, who played fullback from 1971 to 1973 and later was an assistant coach with the team.

Art Aisner is a freelance writer for Reach the news desk at or 734-623-2530.



Mon, Jan 25, 2010 : 11:23 a.m.

tater. I'm reposting this to try and help your clearly tortured soul, I don't know if you follow up on posts, but here goes: >>Best part was, knowing, even before I clicked on story, that it would devolve into a "which university has more criminals" argument. Gents. Chill. I am a Spartan alum, and a U of M season ticket holder for football. Get a bit more complex. It isn't necessary to hate the other to like the one. And really, if you want to get down to brass tacks, what percentage of fellas in either school's football or basketball programs could actually get in to those schools on academic merit? ten? Its sad. These guys come from crazy inner city lives and are talented athletes. They are a blast to watch and root for. It is sad when these guys mess up, but what does counting the number of criminals from either school get you? A prize? Become adults. Realize it is oft times troubled young men who are gifted athletes (clearly not "true" students, playing a GAME. A game. Enjoy it, and learn to do so without all the anger. Trust me its much more fun that way.

T.Gold/Sean T.

Mon, Jan 25, 2010 : 3:03 a.m.

Tater, please stop. "The pot calling the kettle black". Everyone dislikes the Sparties but we have been no better when it comes to scandals & misbehaviors. Just be glad that we're better on the field......or we were! 2010 brings a bowl Go Blue!

Big House

Mon, Jan 25, 2010 : 1:49 a.m.

I agree that this is another non-story. This walk-on, whose name I'll never remember, and Whitley are no longer affiliated with the program. So why does it make the news? Because it will let MSU and U-M fans bash each other on these sites. Just a way to get more hits. And I just fell into their trap. Nevermore...


Mon, Jan 25, 2010 : 1:04 a.m.

Honestly, this is what passes for news? How many misdemeanor assault cases pass through the courts every week? Ooo, but this one is somehow connected to U of M. Must be interesting. The online version of The AA News is just a tabloid. When it's a slow news day you can always find some trash to pin on the U of M. This site is really scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Inspector 57

Mon, Jan 25, 2010 : 12:02 a.m.

Hail to the Victors Valiant! Ah, collegiate sports. The epitome of All-American values.


Sun, Jan 24, 2010 : 11:42 p.m.

So football players like to fight even at Michigan..... wow tater did you read that


Sun, Jan 24, 2010 : 11:39 p.m.

If this man was not connected to the athletic program, would this story have been posted?