The South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame is dedicated to the preservation, documentation and display of South Dakota's sports history.

Joe Thorne - Inducted 2023

Josef “Joe” Thorne grew up in Gettysburg and moved to Beresford in his junior year, where he graduated in 1958. He graduated from SDSU in 1963. As a high school junior, Thorne led Beresford to a 7-0-1 record, the Big Eight Conference football title share, and a state runner-up finish. He led Beresford to the 1958 State A Basketball Tournament and was selected all-state in basketball and football.

Thorne played basketball at SDSU, then switched to football as a sophomore. As a junior, he led the NCC in rushing and was an all-NCC selection. Thorne was selected all-conference, conference MVP, and All-American fullback in his senior year. Head Coach, Ralph Ginn, called Thorne one of the best players he coached during his 22-year career at SDSU and the best fullback he ever coached. Thorne rushed for 2,156 yards in his career, scored 140 points, and set several school records.

Thorne was a 12th-round draft pick of the Green Bay Packers in the 1962 NFL draft. He failed to attend the Packers’ fall camp, which prompted Vince Lombardi to call Thorne’s dad, Melvin, who told the famous coach that his son hadn’t gone to college to learn to play football and that Joe had already committed to the military. Lombardi understood and invited Thorne to contact him after completing his military service.

Thorne was among the first inductees into the SDSU Hall of Fame. He died at 24 as a U.S. Army First Lieutenant while piloting a helicopter shot down in Vietnam. Thorne was the first South Dakotan to die in the Vietnam War. His name holds the 21st place on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC.

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