UCLA's "Hitman" Horton Brings The Lumber

Chris Horton earned the nick name "Hard-hitting Horton" as a kid. When he got to college it evolved into the more deadly version "Hitman." This PAC-10 defender spend some time talking to Scout.com's Jon Scott about his plans for the pros and who he aspires to emulate in the NFL. One hint: The goal is No. 37 in New England.

Draft prospect Chris Horton, S, UCLA.

This interview was originally conducted in March and the article published in early April. It was re-published for Day Two of the Draft because Chris was still on the board.

Q: What have you been doing?

Chris Horton: Took a week off, then got into training to get ready for the combine. The Combine went well, I ran well. Obviously there were some things I needed to do to prepare. I went to the combine after working on my hips and everything to put on a show for the coaches. I think I took care of that. I'm working out at a place called 360 (LA) with Travelle Gaines. He did a great job working with me and preparing me for the combine.

Q: What were the things good (or bad) that stuck out in your college career?

CH: I came here because I felt that UCLA had a chance to win a championship. When we played USC in the Rose Bowl. That year we beat them in the Rose Bowl 13-9 that was probably one of the greatest feelings ever.

Q: Familiar with UCLA before you got there?

CH: I was actually born in LA and moved to New Orleans when I was 7, or so. I got familiar with it once I stepped on campus and realized this was a wonderful place to be.

Q: Your family had to go through a lot of adversity in New Orleans. Tell us about Hurricane Katrina and how you were affected.

CH: That was probably the roughest time for me at UCLA. I had just got back to camp after I had surgery. A couple days after that, here comes the Hurricane. I didn't talk to my mom for almost two week. There was no phone services. I knew they evacuated,

With one of my best friends (teammate) Denis Keyes - he's one of my best friends here - he kind of helped me through it."

Q: Did you rely on anyone in particular?

CH: I kind of relied on one of my coaches. Denis is one of the guys I would go to.

Q Do you get to go home much.

CH: I talk to my mom every day. We have such a strong relationship. She's everything to me.

Q: Did playing early as a kid toughen you up?

CH: I started on a team I probably shouldn't have been playing on because I was too young. I was given the name "Hard Hitting Horton" in Pop Warner. As a kid I used to love watching football. I watched it all the time. Back in the day it was played real physical, and I want to keep it up.

Q: Did that nickname stick with you through college?

CH: My brother actually heard someone else call me "the hitman." So, my brother calls me "Hitman Horton" now. That's the way I try to play. I try to intimidate players. If you're hitting your opponent and he knows you're bringing the wood everyday, he's going to be looking for you. I kind of pride myself on that.

Q: You got hurt a little bit. How did that happen.

CH: I hurt my foot in 2004. When I got back from that, and I got back into camp, I dislocated my wrist in 2005. So I missed like 8 games my sophomore season but I came back and played with a cast on my wrist and everything. And the following year I played with a cast on. That's just the way it is, it's all football.

Q: Did you get put through the wringer in the medical checks at the Combine?

CH: Yeah that was one of the worst things about it. They know everything about you there. That's fine. I figure everybody has injuries. A guy like me I like to get a little dirty, so you can expect some kinds of nicks ad bruises.

Q: Were there any concerns about the injury?

CH: I think they just wanted to get a better understanding about the injury. They took x-rays and everything after that. I had a couple of productive seasons after the surgery and made all PAC-10, so it's all good.

Q: You had some tough games last year. You had a tough loss against BYU in the bowl game. How did that affect you?

CH: We played them earlier in the season and it was a tough, hard-fought game. It was real physical. So when we found out we had to play them again the guys were all excited. We pride ourselves on being physical. It was just one of those things where a blocked kick cost us the game.

Q: Can you build off that loss?

CH: It showed our team that we just have to finish games. Everybody thought we were going to win. We just told ourselves that we just have to finish games.

Q: You and your roommate Denis Keyes were 1 and 2 making tackles for the team. How was that?

CH: We were roommates since we were freshmen. It was our time to shine. We just felt that people are going to know about us. Our defensive scheme - we ran a quarter system - so we always had to get our noses dirty. Teams thought that they could run against our front seven, what they didn't realize is that we have safeties who run like corners and fill the box like linebackers. I thought we did a great job back there against the run and the pass.

Q: Did you and Denis compete over who had better statistics?

CH: Oh definitely. It was one of those things. He told me 'I scored a touchdown before you' and he's right, I was mad because I didn't get a touchdown, but we both had four career interceptions, so we were tied in the end.

Q: You seemed to do well applying pressure from the secondary. You had 7 tackles for a loss and three sacks. How does it feel to be able to provide pressure?

CH: It's fun. Before that game I had three sacks. All three sacks came in one game. I remember before that game I had an interview with ABC's Dan Fouts. He told me 'Horton, your coach never blitzes you and you never have any sacks." I told him 'We're pretty valuable in the secondary, but maybe our coach will call some blitzes and I'll get a chance to get some sacks."

Our coach called one blitz and I went in there and got the sack. The other times, I saw the play where they were my guys stayed in and tried to block, so I just went in there got the sacks.

Q: You have had a chance to watch guys in the NFL. Who do you see on TV and say I'd like to be like that guy?

CH: Oh man… I love watching Rodney Harrison play. He's real physical and gets after people. He gets under people's skin because he's so physical. Guys don't like getting hit, and Rodney plays hard all day. I'm also a big Bob Sanders and Troy Polomalu fan. Those guys just come out and hit and hit and hit.

Q: So what did you think of Rodney in the Super Bowl, or the game in general?

CH: That David Tyree, he had some of the most amazing catches. I was sitting there like everybody else, wondering if [the Patriots] were going to go undefeated. But I was real proud of Eli [Manning] (being a New Orleans guy). He went to high school like a block from my school so it was exciting.

Q: Did you ever have one of those moments where you had a guy completely covered and he still came down with the ball like Tyree's catch? Can you feel for Rodney as a defender?

CH: Oh yeah. I had a guy pinched in against the sideline, and this guy just came down with the catch just before the half. I was like 'no way.' That's football. That's the best part of it.

Q: You received All PAC-10 honors. What's it feel like to be honored like that?

CH: That's all my teammates. Having my corners, my linebackers and my teammates making plays. It's a great feeling, so I credit my teammates for that. Making All Conference means other coaches think that you can play football. So it's a great thing.


UCLA safety Chris Horton, top, is brought down by Florida State running back Lorenzo Booker after Horton's interception during the first half of the Emerald Bowl college football game in San Francisco, Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2006.(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Q: Did you workout with anyone else?

CH: I worked out with some other guys out there like Chevis Jackson from LSU. Typical day we'd do speed work in the morning, then rest, then weightlifting. It was long and intense, but it kind of paid off.

Q: What was the difference between the Combine and your Pro Day?

CH: Just looking back on the Combine, it's long and I think it's about wearing you out. It was just long where you sit for big stretches. Then you go out and do everything back-to-back

Q: How about your Pro Day?

CH: I ran well at the Combine so I didn't do that again. I thought I didn't do well at the Combine in the vertical, the Broad jump and the standing long jump. At the combine I jumped a 28 (vertical) and my Pro Day I had fresher legs and I jumped a 32. At the combine my long jump was 9-foot-1. At the pro day I jumped a 9-foot-11. I ran a low 4.5 at the Combine, so I felt it was pretty good.

Q: What was it like meeting with teams at the Combine and what was it like meeting all those scouts and coaches?

CH: The whole interview process meeting with coaches and coordinators was the best part of the Combine. I met with coach Jim Haslett and he would draw up stuff to ask questions and I'd tell him about the defense. So it went great.

Q: So you met with coaches and scouts. Did you have a good talk with any of them?

CH: I met with the Houston Texans, and coach Ray Rhodes. He's a great guy and everything. He called me after he watched some games and stuff. He told me I'm a "football player." So I thought that was great.

Q: At your Pro Day how did that go with the coaches and scout

CH: . I met with the Patriots' coach, coach [Nick] Caserio and I worked out with him. After that I sat down in a meeting room and talked with coach [Dom] Capers. A great team like the Patriots, if they're going to draft a guy, they're going to want to know how much football you know. With that team it seems like it's all about 'How much football IQ does he have?'

I think if you can explain your defense without having to draw it up I think that's a good thing. So I think I did a great job at that.

Q: What are you going to do before the Draft?

CH: I'm going to keep working out. Then just before the draft I'm going to go home to be with my family and watch the Draft there.

Q: Do you have any expectations for Draft day in where you might go?

CH: No, I'm just looking to for a chance. My agent said it might be between rounds three and five. If it's earlier I'm happy. I just want a chance to wind up on somebody's team. Just bring me to camp.

Q: Which teams were at your pro day or visited and may have been showing interest?

CH: The Jaguars, Rams, Saints, there were probably 20 teams or so. We had like 18 guys working out. There were so many.

Q: Do you hear from any of the UCLA guys in the NFL?

CH: I've talked to guys like Maurice [Jones-Drew], he just said continue working out. Just get into camp and try to impress guys when you're working out. I see Marcedes [Lewis] every now and then. I talk to Ryan.Nece. Im fortunate I get to talk to a lot of guys.


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