Most football fans know stories about basketball players who end up making a career move to football. Scotlandville High defensive end Jonathan Horton might be next on that list.
Horton has played in a scrimmage, a jamboree and just one regular-season game. But first-year Scotlandville head coach Lester Ricard sums up Horton's impact in four telling words.
“Jon changed our defense,” Ricard said. “He is big and athletic. He wreaks havoc.”
Next up for the Hornets (1-0) and the 6-foot-5, 214-pound Horton is a Friday game at Natchez High.
Horton has a football past. And in the past past is exactly where Scotlandville defensive coordinator Alvin Hulbert thought Horton's football aspirations were left behind. He coached the ninth grade team three years when Horton played most of a season before quitting to focus on basketball.
“You could see he had potential then, but I understood why he quit,” Hulbert said. “Going into this year, I knew we needed someone with size and speed to play up front. That is the only way you can challenge the elite teams in 5A. When Jon decided to come out in the spring, my thought was ‘yes.’ He’s everything we thought he could be.”
A highlight film of Horton is already making the rounds on the internet. It shows him racing around offensive linemen to tackle running backs just as they receive the handoff, and pressuring quarterbacks.
“I always loved football and played it through the ninth grade,” Horton said. “I wanted to concentrate on basketball because I thought it would be the best college option. Playing football hopefully will give me more options.
“I am surprised by how easy some things have been. But I know I have work to do. The way I see it, I can help both teams. We’ve won championships in basketball. We have the same goal for football.”
Hulbert and the other football coaches were impressed with Horton’s summer work ethic. He added 14 pounds to his frame and worked to improve his technique.
One fact about Horton’s football move might surprise people. Scotlandville basketball coach Carlos Sample not only applauds it, he wants to see his post player excel at something new. Horton has been part of three Division I select basketball title teams. Scotlandville also went to the Division I football title game in 2016.
Sample points to a team photo on his office wall. Former Tulane defensive lineman Tanzel Smart of the Los Angeles Rams also played basketball at Scotlandville and is in the photo. Ex-Hornet and Tulane running back Dontrell Hilliard of the Cleveland Browns played freshman basketball at SHS.
“Believe it or not, I do encourage our guys to play multiple sports if they want to,” Sample said. “People ask me if I’m worried about an injury. The way I see it, playing football will help him (Horton) when basketball season comes around and hopefully give him more college options. He could have college offers in both. I try not to put limits on my players athletically or academically.”
Sample jokes that chasing down a ball-carrier is not that different from pursuing a loose ball — something Horton has heard Sample always implores his players to do. Speaking of academics, Horton said he carries a 3.5 grade point average in Scotlandville’s engineering program.
Horton proudly notes how basketball skills have helped him be hands on in football.
“When I was younger, I was able to pretty much run by the line,” Horton said. “Now I have to use my hands to get around people. Every week, there is something new.”
The Scotlandville coaches are eager to see what their new defensive weapon can do. Passing game coordinator Charles Booker likes the possibilities for the Hornet offense, too.
“I’ll put it this way,” Booker said with a smile. “Once district (4-5A) play begins it will be all hands on deck for offense, too.”