Thurston was well known for his response to a sportswriter's question about how he prepared for the famous Ice Bowl game, where the gametime temperature was 13 degrees below zero. Thurston responded that he drank "about 10 vodkas" in order to stay warm. Thurston has remained popular in Wisconsin after his playing days and can often be found at Fuzzy's, a bar he owns not far from Lambeau Field.
Thurston was elected to the Indiana Football Hall of Fame in 1982, and the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003. He was the first athlete ever to be voted in by the people of Wisconsin, even though the Hall had been founded in 1951.