Horton Just Hoping For One

As Matt Kalil and Nick Perry fight the East Coast jet lag en route to the NFL's lavash draft ceremony Thursday in New York, Trojans like Shane Horton are sitting at home just hoping to have a phone call at any point this weekend.

As Matt Kalil and Nick Perry fight the East Coast jet lag en route to the NFL's lavash draft ceremony Thursday in New York, there are Trojans sitting at home just hoping to have a phone call at any point this weekend.

Shane Horton is one of a handful of USC players that are more anxious than excited about this next step in their careers. Horton, a 6'1, 210-pound athlete whose younger brother Wes is one of the Trojans' current stars, was beat out of a starting job his senior season by a redshirt freshman. He didn't have a breakout year in college. And the coach that recruited him, Pete Carroll, left for the NFL and was replaced with a coach that didn't know much about Horton or his abilities.

Despite the lot going against him, he faces this weekend with much anticipation and optimism.

"I don't need all 32 teams to want me," Horton said. "I just need one."

After his final fall with the Trojans, the former linebacker reverted back to safety, a position he began playing early at USC and for a season at UNLV.

"That's probably the toughest part of this whole process," he said. "I have the last three years of my film at linebacker."

While some could call it a disadvantage to switch positions at this point of Horton's career, he spins the negative and sees the move as an opportunity to showcase his versatility.

"I feel like that's an advantage to teams, that I can play a bunch of positions at the next level. I will only play one position [in the NFL] but just that I'm knowledgeable all around the field is a strength."

"I'm proud that I did play linebacker though. Since day one -- since my first day of football, since I was eight or nine years old in Pop Warner -- I've always played a bunch of positions. Just kind of dabbled everywhere, even through high school and college."

Horton believes that safety is his most natural position and the one he is meant to play at the professional level. Trouble is, most teams can't see what he does.

"I just want to get a shot in a camp and play to the best of my ability. If I get there and I can't do it, that's fine. But I'm confident that I can."

In addition to confidence Horton has never lacked focus. But since he graduated, that focus has only grown clearer. He could have a mattress in the gym; he's been there that much in the past three months. And he's careful about what he eats. Since the fall, he's been consuming 5-6 meals a day eating every couple hours.

On an ordinary weekday, he digests spoonfuls of brown rice. Not too much, not too little. Because he wants to ensure that his body operates at full functionality, that he did everything he could within himself.

"I can't control the minds of these GMs. I can only control me and make sure I work hard every day."

He really has no idea what NFL teams think of him, if anything. His agent has done all the talking. But the hours spent sweating and days where he became glossy-eyed watching film wasn't for naught, Horton said. Because for him, this goal is bigger than himself.

"The NFL is an organization that helps guys like me provide for their families for a long time. It's something that not a lot of people have the opportunity to do. I feel like I have a great opportunity to go into this league and be a productive player and be able to provide for the people that I want to provide for.

"That's what wakes me up every day."

The undrafted players who have seen success help keep Horton up. The Cowboys' Miles Austin, Patriots' Danny Woodhead and Steelers' James Harrison are just a few of the 'unchosen' that have gone on to prove many wrong.

Horton has even been talking to a few teams in the Canadian Football League. He had a tryout the other week and will attend another in the coming weeks.

"If it takes me going to play in the CFL for a year or two to show that I can play safety at the next level, I'd be more than willing to do that. But my goal and my boyhood dream is to play in the NFL. So the sooner I get there, the better."

Maybe that dream will be fulfilled as soon as this weekend. But if not, Horton will still be getting better. Somewhere. Somehow.

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