by: Archive Photo, Mark Thorson after leading Western Oregon football team to a Division-II bowl game in 2007.

Mark Thorson, a 2004 graduate of Sandy High School, has signed a contract to play professional football with the Boise Burn of the Arena Football League 2 (AFL2).

AFL2 is the minor league of the Arena Football League and plays its games from April through July. The league is used to develop football players and help them adapt to the arena style of play.

'I talked to an Arena team, and they didn't want to sign me,' Thorson said over the phone recently. 'But then I talked to a couple of AFL2 teams who were very interested in me, but I loved (Boise) the best.'

The AFL2 was founded in 1999 by the Arena League in an attempt to bring the game to smaller markets following the success of the AFL; it had its first season in 2000. The league currently has 25 teams, with three teams expected to start in 2010.

Boise also signed six-year Arena League veteran quarterback Tim Hicks, who will compete with Thorson for the Boise starting job.

'The coaches told me that the best player will start, so it is up to me when I become a starter,' Thorson said. 'I plan to work hard, and I know that eventually the coaches want (Hicks) to become a coach.'

Hicks spent the past two seasons as a player with the Los Angles Avengers of the Arena League, which recently canceled its 2009 season. The Arena League said in a statement on Dec. 15 that it was "developing a long-term plan to improve its economic model.'

'The AFL2 operates separately, so them (not playing) will only affect me because I won't be able to be called up to the Arena League,' Thorson said. 'It doesn't matter because I am coming in to work hard and start as soon as I can in the AFL2.'

Players from the AFL2 can be called up to the Arena League, but with the season now suspended, it will use the 2009 season for player development.

'This league is strong and runs separately than the Arena League, so we will be playing this year,' Thorson said. 'I am excited to get in there, learn as quickly as possible and help the team win.'

Thorson was a three-sport athlete at Sandy before moving to Western Oregon, where he was a three-year starter for the Wolves. There Thorson led his team to a 20-12 record and holds the school record for pass attempts (987), pass completions (568), TDs (60) and most TDs overall (63).

'I am really excited to continue to play professional football, and I really liked the organization in Boise,' Thorson said. 'I met with a couple of teams in AFL2, and I just loved the atmosphere in Boise, and it is a great sports town.'

Thorson said he still ultimately would love a chance at the National Football League but will work extremely hard for the Boise Burn.

'Of course that is my ultimate goal (to play in the NFL); who doesn't want to get there? I am just really excited about the opportunity to continue to play, and Boise has given me a great opportunity, and now the doors are wide open.'

Boise has finished its first two seasons at 8-8, missing the playoffs in both its seasons, but the coaches are working to change that. Thorson said that was a big factor in his signing with the team.

'The owners and coaches are excited about winning now and are looking to make a splash this year and get into the playoffs. The coaches told me I can compete for the starting job, and that is what I plan to do.'

Boise opens the 2009 season Friday, March 27, at Tri-Cities before playing its first home game April 18 at Qwest Arena in Boise against the Spokane Shock.