The freshman on the Auburn football team, who had been told his six and eight-year-old half brothers had died in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, will never forget the phone call when he found out that Jerry Taylor Jr. and Delorean Taylor are alive as refugees in Houston, Tex.
"I can't even describe the feeling I had when I heard those voices," Horton says. "It was unexplainable. It was a sigh of relief. I felt a lot of stress just leave. I can't even put in words the feeling I had."
Horton got the the life-changing news by accident when he was making a phone call to a cousin, Donald Monroe, Jr., to tell him the news that his younger brothers had died in the flood and that his father, Jerry Taylor Sr., was still missing.
However, Monroe stunned the Auburn football player by telling him that Horton's father and the two boys were refugees in Houston. Monroe later got Horton on the phone with his father on a three-way cell phone call and he got to hear his father and brothers briefly before the call was dropped.
Horton says he had been told by another cousin that the boys had died in the flood. The defensive end adds he also talked to a New Orleans policeman he knew who told him that the evacuees staying in shelter where Horton was told the boys were had drown.
The Auburn freshman says he doesn't know the details of how his family members got to Houston, but that is not important now. However, not all of the news was good. He says his aunt, Hattie Wimberley, did drown in New Orleans.
Horton says he is very close to Jerry and Delorean and has tried to be a role model and a father figure as they grew up in the Ninth Ward in New Orleans.
"By them being so much younger than me, I had so many things I planned to do with them because I knew I was going to be successful in either football or get my degree and get my education," Horton says. "There were so many things I wanted to do with them, show them and expose them to. I was like, ‘man, I don't have any reason to be in school or be playing football.' Then I sat down and thought about it and said, ‘I can still make them happy, even if they are not here right now, they will smile on me and see that I am doing good. I have to keep on striving forward.' At the same time, I still kept that hope in the back of my mind..."
Horton says he had been praying for a miracle that there was a mistake and that his family members would be found okay. He says he was at Wal-Mart with football players Walter McFadden and Pat Sims plus a friend when he got the stunning news.
He says that he is trying to get in touch with them again in hopes that the boys can relocate to Auburn to attend elementary school in the college town. "The phone communications in the 504 area code (Louisiana) are hit and miss," he notes.
Being a role model to the brothers is important to him, Horton says "That is my whole motivation, my whole drive. My father spent time with them, but when I was coming up in my younger years my dad was in prison. He just started coming into my life in my high school years and the later part of my middle school years. I didn't want my little brothers to grow up without that male figure they were looking up to. I wanted to be that to them."
When he heard their voices on the three-way phone conversation Horton notes that he was stunned. "I just stopped," he says. "Prayer changes. That is all I could say."
Horton credits team chaplain Chette Williams for helping him deal with the traumatic situation. "He has been a whole lot of help," Horton says. "Everybody has been a big help for me. All of the support here has helped me a whole lot."
Horton adds that the ordeal has changed his perspective on life. "It is going to strengthen my relationship with a lot of people--everybody I consider my friend and my associates. It is going to strengthen my relationships with them because life is too short and you never know what is going to happen."