Nearly three decades later, a gap in Joe Horn’s otherwise successful football career closed. It was National Signing Day and he got to wear garnet and black.
Horn was an NFL wide receiver for 12 seasons, totaling 603 catches, 8,744 yards and 58 touchdowns. He represented the New Orleans Saints four times in the Pro Bowl.
On Wednesday, though, he had “Carolina” across his chest and a Gamecocks lanyard hanging from his neck. The 45-year-old isn’t part of Will Muschamp’s 2018 recruiting class. That title goes to his son, Jaycee.
To say Dad got nostalgic Wednesday at Alpharetta High School would be an understatement.
“Out of high school,” Horn said, “I was recruited by the Gamecocks. I never told (Jaycee) that. Now that he’s signed, he can know I was almost signed to the Gamecocks.”
Jaycee Horn is a four-star cornerback who recorded 44 tackles and made five interceptions this past fall. He signed with South Carolina over the likes of Tennessee, Alabama, Ohio State and Clemson.
Jaycee wore a garnet polo and khaki pants Wednesday. He carried a USC hat with him to the signing table.
“This was the right decision,” Jaycee said. “They develop DBs and get DBs to the league, so it’s the best place for me.”
Joe Horn was a standout quarterback, running back, receiver and punter for Douglas Byrd High School in Fayetteville, North Carolina. He attracted big college programs, but only one was the team of his childhood.
“I was with Sterling Sharpe, (but) Robert Brooks was my favorite,” Horn said, nodding to great Gamecock receivers of the late 1980s and early ’90s. “I remember when (George) Rogers was there, but I was a young buck then.
“And I went to a lot of football camps there. So, of course, in the sixth grade, seventh grade, going to a lot of football camps there, you get used to going there and loving that team there.”
Horn said Joe Morrison’s death in February 1989 brought him to tears.
“I cried on the way to school,” Horn said.
Sparky Woods, Morrison’s successor, recruited Horn to USC. Why didn’t he end up a Gamecock?
“Unfortunately,” Horn said, “my academic route, I didn’t do what I was supposed to do.
“But my son did, and I’m very, very, very proud of him in that moment.”
Horn settled for Itawamba Community College in Fulton, Mississippi. From there, it was a few years in the CFL before starring in the NFL.
The path ahead for Jaycee Horn starts with fewer hurdles.
“He thinks I can come in and have an opportunity to play (at South Carolina),” Jaycee said of his father, “but I’m not saying I’m going to come in and automatically start. Because it’s D-I, SEC, you’re gonna have to put in the work anywhere you go.”
Jaycee Horn’s USC career begins soon. He’s not a Gamecock legacy. He’s simply fulfilling his father’s dreams.
“He can come and be a part of something,” Joe Horn said. “Like I told him the other day, ‘Make history, win a national championship. Go with other guys to South Carolina and become the next strong powerhouse. It doesn’t matter that they don’t have national championships on their résumé. Hey, you’re there now, you make it so.’ ”