At some point during his South Carolina football career, 4-star cornerback Jaycee Horn likely will cross paths with a future Pro Bowl wide receiver.
Fortunately for Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp and defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson, Horn already has some experience covering a guy with four NFL all-star games on his résumé.
Horn’s father, Joe, spent 13 seasons in the NFL, mostly with the New Orleans Saints, where he had three 1,000-yard receiving campaigns and totaled 50 touchdown catches. When he was at the top of his game, Joe Horn stood among the NFL’s best wide receivers.
Even though he’s 46 and has been out of the game for more than a decade, the elder Horn insists that his game is intact, at least enough to work over his son, who i’s rated by the 247Sports composite as the No. 22 cornerback in the Class of 2018.
“I would tear his ass out the frame,” Joe said. “I would tear his ass out the frame, because I still can run. I still work out. I walked away from the game of football. Football didn’t make me retire.”
The two lined up across from each other for some 1-on-1s the summer before Jaycee’s sophomore season at Alpharetta (Ga.) High School.
“I couldn’t really handle him, because I was still small and all that,” he said. “It was my first year at DB. … He’s a lot older now.”
These days, the 6-foot, 190-pound cornerback thinks he’s more equipped to lock down his dad. The size would help and so would the knowledge imparted from his father.
“Just don’t let the receiver get a free release. Receivers don’t like to get touched at the line of scrimmage,” Jaycee said. “He said I’ve got good length and just use it. He said that bothered him when he was in the league.”
How South Carolina won
Jaycee originally planned to be on Rocky Top. He committed to Tennessee last August, but changes with the coaching staff put an end to that pledge before the end of November.
South Carolina, one of the schools he considered before jumping on board with the Vols, never relented. Robinson and Muschamp remained in constant contact. The pursuit eventually paid off.
“Will Muschamp got Jaycee Horn when he came to Alpharetta High School, to take the time out of his schedule, to come see him [practice]. That’s when he got Jaycee Horn,” Joe said. “Maybe a lot of head coaches ought to take that cue, to get more players.”
Jaycee’s mom, Lacreshia, approved, too.
“I like South Carolina, the hometown feeling, because I’m a country girl from Tupelo, Miss., so it won’t be overwhelming,” she said. “I think it will be a good fit for Jaycee, because he’s a city boy, but not really. And I like the coaching staff. … They made me really feel comfortable and this may be a good place for him.”
South Carolina’s top two coaches were instrumental in the decision, even when one had already been made.
“Coach Muschamp and coach T-Rob, they maintained a great relationship with me, even throughout my commitment to Tennessee,” Jaycee said. “They came even harder, those guys, every day. I talked to T-Rob on the phone every day. I talked to Muschamp like two or three times a week, so it was just the best fit for me.”
To go along with the relationships forged by the two coaches, a number of factors played into Jaycee’s decision to sign with South Carolina in December.
“That program is on the rise, but also the biggest factor is the development with DBs,” he said. “They put a lot of DBs in the league at Florida. They had DBs my size and [Robinson] worked those guys well, and they went on to the NFL level, and that’s where I’m trying to go. I think T-Rob is the best guy to help me develop and get there.”
The Gamecocks also are looking to replace three starters in the secondary: cornerback JaMarcus King and safeties Chris Lammons and D.J. Smith.
“That was also a big factor, getting to come in and at least compete for a starting job,” Jaycee said. “Of course, it’s not going to be handed to you, coming in as a freshman in the SEC. It’s going to take a lot of work in the weight room, on the field, mentally – staying in [the] film [room] and in the playbook, so that was also a big factor, being able to have the opportunity to compete to play early.”
Father knows best
Coming out of Byrd High School in Fayetteville, N.C., Joe Horn signed to play college ball at South Carolina. He was unable to qualify academically and landed at Itawamba Community College in Mississippi.
After two years in junior college, Joe worked a number of different jobs, trying to make ends meet while pursuing a career in professional football. He got his foot in the door in 1995 during his one season with the Memphis Mad Dogs of the CFL.
Joe caught 71 passes for 1,415 yards that season. It was enough to get the attention of the Kansas City Chiefs, who selected him in the sixth round of the 1996 NFL Draft.
Those experiences, along with the ones gained over the following 13 years, helped Joe distinguish what’s what in football, and in life, too. Many of those lessons have since been passed along to Jaycee.
“He helped me separate which coaches are keeping it real with me, because he’s been to the top and he knows it’s all just a business, at the end of the day,” Jaycee said. “That’s the best thing I can say about having a dad who played in the National Football League. It doesn’t really have anything to do with him teaching me things on the field.”
Joe added: “At the end of the day, you cannot blow smoke up your child’s behind. You’ve got to tell the truth.”