An old proverb states that opportunity never knocks twice at any man’s door, but a different twist on the saying might be that sometimes it’s better to be the one doing the knocking.
That was the case this spring for Scotlandville senior-to-be Jonathan Horton when he searched out Hornets first-year football coach Lester Ricard on a Friday afternoon. Horton was already well-known as a post player for the Scotlandville basketball program that won its third consecutive Division I basketball championship in March.
On this day, Horton’s mind was on football, a sport he hadn’t played since his freshman year at Scotlandville.
“I went and told coach Ricard that I wanted to play football, and he welcomed me in,” Horton said.
Ricard’s description of that moment is less understated, one that conveys his own excitement as well as that of his coaching staff. After a confirming phone call to Horton’s mother, Ricard and Horton set out to tell defensive coordinator Alvin Hubbert about the team’s newest player.
“We went out and found (Hubbert) on campus,” Ricard said. “You’d have thought he’d just gotten married again. It was that kind of joy.”
That’s the kind of emotion that Horton, listed at 6-foot-5, 205 pounds on the basketball roster, elicits from the Hornets football staff. Along with the speed to run a 4.8 40-yard-dash and a wingspan of nearly seven feet, Horton was an ideal candidate to play defensive end, where he wreaked havoc in spring drills.
“(The coaches) just want me to go out and make plays,” Horton said. “They say I’m going to be a big part of the defense and that I’ll most likely start, but that’s all up to the coaches. I’ll just keep working and trying to do the right things.”
Horton’s work ethic has been honed with three years under the tutelage of Scotlandville basketball coach Carlos Sample. As part of a team that went 34-2 last season, Horton 7.9 points, 6.7 rebounds and a team-high 3.5 blocks per game. He also made a team-best 63 percent of his shots from the field.
For Horton, who plans to join the Hornets basketball team once football season ends, it wasn’t enough to keep him from giving football one more try before graduating from high school.
Hubbert sees it as a smart decision by Horton.
“We encourage all our kids to be dual sport athletes,” Hubbert said. “We tell them it doesn’t make sense to be a one-sport start. There are a number of kids with scholarship offers in more than one sport. That’s the world we’re living in.”
One of the athletes Hubbert referenced was recent LSU basketball commitment Jalen Cook of Walker, a guard who is also a highly recruited wide receiver in football. Hubbert sees similarities in Horton, whose athletic abilities translate well to either sport.
“Here’s a kid that came out for maybe five or six days in the spring, and Oklahoma and Miami (scouts) were salivating over him,” Hubbert said. “They couldn’t believe how big he is.”
The excitement has helped bring a swagger to the Hornets defense which, according to Ricard, will do everything it can to take advantage of Horton’s size and speed.
“I’ll be shocked if (Horton) doesn’t have 15 sacks for the season, and that’s probably cutting it short,” Ricard said. “It’s going to be fun.”