Horton inks pact with Green Bay

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 26, 2004

AHOSKIE – He’s just inside the door himself, but he wants to make sure that it stays open for those who would follow.

Just a few weeks after signing a National Football League contract with the Green Bay Packers, Jason Horton of Ahoskie said he feels it’s important to make sure others from the Roanoke-Chowan area can follow him into the league.

&uot;I want to help break down the barrier so others will have a better chance,&uot; Horton said. &uot;There have been athletes at Hertford County who were better than me, but never got the chance. I want to make sure we are opening doors for more to follow.&uot;

Horton said an opportunity was all he ever asked for and that he intended to make the very best of it.

&uot;I said I only need one shot and they gave it to me,&uot; he said after signing a free agent deal with the Packers.

It was a twisting road that led the 1998 graduate of Hertford County High School to Green Bay, one that took him from Ahoskie to Chapel Hill on to Greensboro and, eventually, to Toronto, Canada.

Horton’s accolades started in his senior season with Hertford County, when the defensive back and wing back was named to the All Big-Eight Conference team, the Associated Press All-State team and was designated as the Roanoke-Chowan Area Defensive Player of the Year.

&uot;In 1998, I played in the Big Eight, which had the best competition I’ve played against,&uot; Horton said. &uot;I played against Julius Peppers and some quality players. That level of competition got me prepared.&uot;

The next season, Horton joined Southern Nash rival Peppers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After red-shirting his first season, Horton started at defensive back during the next campaign.

The next year Horton sat out after transferring to North Carolina A& T University.

After that season, Horton started at cornerback for two seasons for the Aggies and was named All-Conference during his senior year.

After leaving A&T, Horton signed with the Toronto Argonauts in the Canadian Football League.

&uot;They treated me just like a rookie,&uot; Horton said, &uot;But I was the only American rookie that made the team, so that was an accomplishment.&uot;

Horton said that he went hard in practice and gave it his all, but played very little during the season. He said he was looking forward to returning the next season and had signed a contract with the Columbus Destroyers of the Arena Football League.

Though the Packers had seen him while playing in Toronto, Horton didn’t think anything would come of it until he got a call from Green Bay scout Mark Lillobridge.

The team flew him to Green Bay, where he worked out for several of the Packers’ defensive coaches.

&uot;I was on vacation and had been kind of laying back, so I was worried I wouldn’t be at my best, but I knew I had to go,&uot; Horton said.

Once there, Horton found himself in tryouts with other players from the CFL, but had a good weekend.

During his tryout, Horton ran a 4.4 in the 40 and did a 36-inch vertical leap.

Still, he didn’t know how well until he received a phone call a week later.

&uot;When he (Lillobridge) called and said I was going to be a member of the Green Bay Packers, I asked him if it was a joke,&uot; Horton said. &uot;The first time he said, ‘you made it,’ that sounded so good.

&uot;It was the best news I’ve ever heard in my life,&uot; he added.

While still facing the rigors of any rookie at camp, Horton does have an advantage over some of his fellow newcomers when he reports to the Packers’ camp. Because he was already signed with another professional franchise, his Green Bay contract is guaranteed.

&uot;I still have to make the team, but I do have a little advantage over some of the other rookies,&uot; he said.

Green Bay is known for its cold climate, but Horton said he thought his year in the cold of Toronto would help him be prepared.

Though admitting it had been a long road from Ahoskie to Green Bay, Horton said he was thankful for those who had supported him.

&uot;First and foremost, God blessed me,&uot; Horton said. &uot;Then, I am so thankful for my parents. It hasn’t always been an easy road, but they’ve supported me.

&uot;When I’ve been at the top, they were there and when I was at the bottom, they were with me,&uot; he said.

He also said he appreciated the help of Argonauts coach &uot;Pinball&uot; Clement.

Horton said Clement’s motivational skills helped him a lot and that the coach had treated him like a son.

&uot;I really want to thank my mom and dad and the people in Hertford County who supported me,&uot; Horton said.

Horton is the son of Mr. and Mrs. John Horton of Ahoskie. He currently resides in Greensboro.