Horton Hired As Danny Nutt's Replacement
Nutt wanted to float an idea by Horton: Would the former Arkansas wide receiver consider extending his stay in Fayetteville so he could replace Danny Nutt as the Razorbacks' running backs coach?
The idea of coming home to be with his family was enough to convince Horton to give up his job as offensive coordinator at the Air Force Academy.
Exactly 24 hours after Houston Nutt announced that his brother was resigning because of a recurring brain condition, Horton was introduced as Arkansas' new running backs coach.
"Obviously, to come at this time of the year and to come really under these circumstances is less than ideal," Horton said Wednesday afternoon at a news conference at the team meeting room.
"Obviously, with Danny Nutt's health being like it is and him being a friend, there are things more important than football out there and that certainly is (one). I hate to come under those circumstances, but (I'm) really, really happy to be back here."
Horton was Houston Nutt's top choice all along to take over for Danny Nutt, whose health has been deteriorating over the past 4-5 weeks because of bleeding from his brain stem.
Horton graduated from Arkansas in 1990 after spending three seasons as the starting split end and punt returner for former Razorbacks coach Ken Hatfield.
Horton served as a team captain during the 1989 season, and his father, Harold, is a former Arkansas assistant coach who now works as a vice president for the Razorback Foundation.
"Our hearts are smiling. We're proud for him," Harold Horton said. "This is something he's wanted to do, and I think Coach Nutt made an extremely good hire."
The past few days have been a whirlwind for the younger Horton, and his decision to leave Air Force six months after he was hired as offensive coordinator was a difficult one.
Realizing that Danny Nutt might no longer be able to serve as the running backs because of his poor health, Houston Nutt contacted Horton this past weekend to gage his interest in returning to Arkansas.
Coincidentally, Horton was already on his way.
He drove with his wife and two children from Colorado Springs -- where the Air Force Academy is located -- to Fayetteville to visit with his parents.
Horton and Houston Nutt met Monday to discuss the job opening, and after taking some time to think it over, Horton agreed late Monday night to replace Danny Nutt. The deal was finalized around noon Wednesday.
"It was tough. It wasn't just like, 'OK, I'll come,'" Houston Nutt said of Horton's decision. "I mean, he had to do some real soul searching. He had to really think about it.
"He's giving up a lot, but I think he's been wanting to come here. He's been wanting to come back to be a Razorback for a long, long time. This is a good fit for us."
With Arkansas set to open spring practices in less than three weeks away, Horton won't have much time to prepare. He has already received a copy of the playbook, and he had hoped to meet with Darren McFadden, Felix Jones and Arkansas' other running backs sometime Wednesday.
"I guess I'm very, very, very fortunate to walk into a situation like that," Horton said. "I think a coach's responsibility is to try to take them to a level that they can't go to by themselves. So hey, if you improve Darren McFadden this much, then I think that's a good thing."
Horton is expected to take over Danny Nutt's recruiting territory that includes Little Rock and Memphis. As a former punter returner, he'll also have a big input with Arkansas' special teams, which made some costly mistakes toward the end of last season.
"He won't take over, but he'll be highly, highly involved (with the special teams)," Houston Nutt said.
Arkansas offensive coordinator David Lee, who was Hatfield's quarterbacks coach when Horton played, supported the idea of bringing the former wide receiver back as an assistant coach.
"He was my No. 1 draft choice, and he was Houston's No. 1 choice, too," Lee said. "That's so fortunate this late to get him."
Meanwhile, Danny Nutt is expected to meet with Dr. Gazi Yasargil in Little Rock this morning to see if surgery is needed to stop the bleeding from his brain stem.
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