PROSPECT PROFILE: OL Cody Horton

It was your average spring evening in Kansas in 1995 and Cody Horton was coming back from a party with some friends. Horton, who was a senior offensive lineman at Halsted High School in Kansas, was driving his friend and teammate Todd Wooten, home. Things were going great for Horton, who two weeks earlier, had signed a scholarship with Hutchinson (KS) Community College. Just when things seemed to be perfect, something inconceivable happened.

Wooten looked over to Horton only to find him curled up while driving. Thinking quickly, Wooten was able to get control of the car and slow the car down and stop it before anything tragic had happened. Horton had just gone through a grand mal seizure as a result of having epilepsy.

"I was lucky that Todd knew what to do because I had no idea what was going on," stated Horton. "Todd has epilepsy too, so he was experienced in these situations. After a couple of minutes I was fine. We finished driving and when I got to Todd's house, I called my mom and we set up an appointment with a doctor the following morning. I still don't remember being at the party or driving home that night"

Horton is not just your average football player. At 6-4, 321 pounds, Horton was a high school 1st Team All-League selection and had several scholarship offers before deciding to sign with Hutchinson. Even after being away from football for five years recovering from his diagnosis, he has come back to be a pre-season All-American his sophomore year and is being recruited by quite a few top-notch Division I programs. The sophomore starting strong guard plans to schedule visits to Kansas State, Houston, South Carolina, Mississippi State and either West Virginia or Mississippi.

Horton would like to continue his community college career another week or so, as his Blue Demons prepare to face powerful Garden City this Sunday in the Jayhawk Conference semi-finals. Despite a 4-5 record, Hutchinson upset Fort Scott, 15-10 in the first round of the playoffs and look to avenge their 31-6 loss in the last week of the season against Garden City. In their first meeting with Fort Scott, the Blue Demons were defeated, 45-7, but made the right adjustments to pull off the upset last week. Last year, Garden City ended Hutchinson's season with a 42-0 win in the semi-finals.

 But playing in a big games is nothing compared to what Horton went though six years ago. He still remembers his initial visit with the doctors.

"Needless to say, I was shocked to find out what the doctor was telling me," stated Horton. "I didn't know what to do or how to act. Apparently I had some seizures growing up, but didn't really know what they were. I'm not sure if I was born with it, but it helped explain some things that I went through in the past."

What is epilepsy? According to the website HealingWell.com, epilepsy is a brain disorder in which clusters of nerve cells, or neurons, in the brain sometimes signal abnormally. Neurons normally generate electrochemical impulses that act on other neurons, glands, and muscles to produce human thoughts, feelings, and actions. In epilepsy, the normal pattern of neuronal activity becomes disturbed, causing strange sensations, emotions, and behavior, or sometimes convulsions, muscle spasms, and loss of consciousness. During a seizure, neurons may fire as many as 500 times a second, much faster than the normal rate of about 80 times a second. In some people, this happens only occasionally; for others, it may happen up to hundreds of times a day.

During his appointment with the doctor, Horton found out he could continue his playing career, but he would be on medication the rest of his life to help control his epilepsy. Unfortunately, his return to football would take five years.

"The doctor told be that I had to stay away from physical activity for a while, which meant no running, or overexerting myself," recalled Horton. "It was tough because I couldn't lift weights or do anything physical. Plus, we had a hard time finding out which medication worked right for me. It took a long time to find the right medication because there are so many types of epilepsy and just as many different medications."

When Horton started taking Divalpoex sodium, or Depakote, they discovered that his seizures stopped occurring. After years of trying to find the right medication, it looked like Horton would be able to resume his workout regimen and get back into playing condition. But before he could begin, the doctors said that Horton had to go six months without a seizure while on the medication. The time passed and Horton began to work out slowly. He now takes three pills every night to help control the epilepsy.

"Although I started feeling better, it took a little longer to get physically and mentally back in shape," said Horton. "When I was finally ready to try and go back to school and play football, I went back to Hutchinson to see if I could make the team. I enrolled in the spring to help get myself ready academically, as well as physically."

After earning a starting position in the fall, head coach Dave Wheeler rewarded Horton with a full scholarship and he has not regretted it for a moment. In his sophomore year, Horton has led his team in pancakes and has been a two-time All-Jayhawk Conference selection.

Blue Dragon offensive line coach Danny Del Gado, who coached at Garden City last season, has been impressed with Horton's play.

"I remember hearing about him when I was at Garden City and I was real anxious to find out about him," said Del Gado. "He really has worked hard to overcome his shortcomings and he has been a great leader for us. Being 24 years old helps his maturity level and a lot of the guys look to him for leadership."

Del Gado said he wasn't real worried about Horton having a seizure during two-a-day practices in the summer and during game situations. The coaching staff made sure that the training staff was aware of the situation and were prepared in case Horton had a seizure.

"Yeah, it scares you a little bit, but he hasn't shown any signs of having any problems," added Del Gado. "He works hard in practice and when the lights come on, he is always ready to perform."

Horton, who plans to major in physical education at the next level, would like to be a high school football coach and maybe a math teacher. And who could doubt anything he decides to do. He's got it all under control.


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