Friday, May 7, 2010

NFL icon Joe Horn gets 'real' with students

GREENVILLE — For 14 years Joe Horn sent a message on the football field, combining for over 600 catches and nearly 9,000 receiving yards for three NFL teams. His two best seasons came in 2000 and 2004 as a member of the New Orleans Saints when had 94 catches and over 1,300 yards each season.
Thursday morning, the four-time pro bowler sent a message beyond the football field and into the classroom when he spoke to students and faculty members at Weston Ninth-Grade Academy.
The typical high school speaker hasn’t been known to get through to the average high school student. A monotone delivery, skewed view of reality and a dull presentation can immediately turn off 15-year-olds.
However, thanks to the faculty at Weston, male students got a bowl of reality and encouragement from one of the New Orleans Saints most recognizable faces in recent years.
“I have five brothers and one sister and we had to find a way to make it work with each other,” said Horn, who was raised in Conneticut before playing at Itawamba Community College — where he was coached by current Mississippi Delta Community College coach Jay MIller. “I have nieces and nephews that have been through a lot of stuff; I’m talking about being I’ve been there and done that.
“(It’s) nothing to you to sit in that seat and think in your mind this NFL football star who made millions of dollars, who got jewelry, and live in a million dollar house don’t know what’s going on,” Horn told the half-filled room in Weston’s auditorium.
“(You’re thinking) he don’t know about my cousin who selling drugs right now telling me I can make $500 every night. He’s going to get in the car with his homeboy and drive off to the next school and he’s not going to worry about me.
“But please get your mind from that,” Horn continued. “I’m not here to judge you guys. I love you to death.”
Horn told the students he sat in her same seat when Charles Barkley visited his high school and he had same thoughts.
“Charles wasn’t going home with me to my refrigerator and give me (any) food or put any money in my pocket. So I laid back like it wasn’t nothing,” he recalled.
“But guess what? I woke up 5 or 10 years later when everything Charles said made sense.
“You have to control you. You have choices in life.”
Horn spoke about numerous subjects during his estimated hour-long speech. He touched on subjects ranging from his flunking the SAT in high school to what he would have done if not for football.
“If I wasn’t playing football, I would be a teacher or a police officer,” Horn said. “I always wanted to help people.
“If I was a trash man, I would have been the best trash man in the city.”
The 38-year-old, who last played in 2007 with the Atlanta Falcons, also flirted with the possibility of retiring.
“I thought about going to the Chicago Bears to mentor (Devin Hester) this year, but I’ll probably retire during training camp,” he said.
Horn also stopped by to inform the students about his upcoming football camp in Shaw, which will be held June 18-19
“If you don’t have the money, we’ll make a way,” he told the crowd.
After spending four years with the Kansas City Chiefs, Horn signed with the Saints in 2000 where his career flourished. He had 94 catches and 1,340 yards in his first season in New Orleans. His previous high was 35.
Along with Duece McAllister, Horn became the face of the franchise, going over 1,200 yards receiving in four out of seven seasons.
Although he wasn’t a part this year’s Super Bowl team, Horn said the Saints’ journey to the championship was destiny.
“It was nothing the NFL could do to stop the Saints from winning the Super Bowl,” said Horn. “It was their time to be at the top. When it’s your time, it’s your time.”

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