Andre Johnson, Dorial Green-Beckham and Tajae Sharpe.
These are a few of the wide receivers that Tennessee Titans fans have been inundated with throughout the seemingly endless NFL off-season. But, gaze a little further down the roster and you will land on an unheralded name with a very intriguing story.
He is Reece Horn, undrafted rookie pass-catcher from Division II University of Indianapolis, and his accolades are many.
As a student athlete at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis, IN, Horn was no stranger to the spotlight. His senior campaign, the lanky wideout accounted for 12 touchdowns and 1,419 receiving yards en route to the 2010 4A IHSAA State Championship game.
The Irish emerged victorious 31-20 in the final contest of the season; Reece contributed a meager 122 yards on six catches, including a touchdown. A prospect like that should have gotten offers from NCAA Division I programs and a monster ego to match, right?
By all accounts, the most notable knock on Horn’s game was and is a lack of straight-line speed. A hard worker, someone who would “just put my head down and grind,” by his own estimation and a prototypical body at 6’3”, 215 lbs. but athletically average in the eyes of talent evaluators.
Most of us would be disheartened by the slights or would have been to proud to accept a Division II scholarship from the smaller, private University in the town we grew up in in pursuit of a lofty goal. The majority of us lack the passion for sport of football or the will to not fall back on the excuse that, “it’s not worth the effort because I know I can’t make a career out of it.”
In as modest a way as humanly possible, Reece Horn took that out onto the field with him for every snap he played at the University of Indianapolis and politely shoved his ability and determination down his doubters’ throats.
The Harlon Hill Award, for which Horn was a candidate as a senior, is given to the DII college football player of the year. San Diego Chargers running back Danny Woodhead was a back-to-back winner during his junior and senior campaigns at Chadron State (don’t worry, I had to look it up too).
While Horn did not receive the Harlon Hill, he sure as hell tried to receive everything else that year. He earned AFCA All-America honors, became a three-time First Team All-Great Lakes Valley Conference honoree and a two-time First Team All-Super Region 4 recipient, as well as being voted the GLVC Special Teams Player of the Year and shattering UIndy’s single-season and career records for receptions (272) and receiving yards (3,562).
Again, would no one else be an ego monster with a senior season like that?
“It’s humbling and that’s just kinda how I like to take care of my business,” Horn told me when he sat in-studio with me Sunday afternoon.
And, in typical football robot fashion, he immediately credited his coaches, his quarterback, and his teammates for all of his success with every ounce of humility that we demand of our athletes in this hyper-sensitive age of fake outrage whenever someone offends our delicate sensibilities. In our conversation, Horn did exactly what someone in his position should do: put his head down and get through it. If his goal was to bury my in coach-speak and say very little of substance in as many words as he could, he succeeded.
But that is how a player on the fringe of a 90-man training camp roster should react. Play it safe.
In no way do I mean to question the genuineness of Horn’s responses or disparage our conversation in any way. Quite the opposite.
As someone who often revels in “sports anarchy” and demands that our athletes and entertainers be as entertaining as possible for totally selfish reasons, I sat across from Reece Horn Sunday and believed every ounce of humility, hard work and dedication that he was feeding me. I could not have been more impressed with the character of Horn as an individual and almost thrown off by the fact that he was exactly as advertised: humble, hard-working and utterly determined.
This is a player that has consistently proved at every level of play, thus far, that he is up to the task. And, if he is not, then he makes damn sure to put in the work to get himself there.
Oh, and he is a pretty spectacular athlete on top of all that.
It could be that Horn simply ignores people’s opinions, or that he is capable of blocking out the noise. It could be that he has immense focus and patience or that he is just not as vain or insecure as the rest of us. Where some might see a stigma associated with the titles of “DII” or “undrafted” and recoil at his chances, he sees an opportunity that you will underestimate his skill right up until the point where he takes your roster spot.
Not because of any freakish ability or potential for upside, but because he has earned it.
It is why I believe that he can make the Tennessee Titans roster at the end of the preseason, if for no other reason besides that he has every intention of doing so.