- Covered Panthers, NFL for 11 years
- More than 25 years experience covering NFL, college football and NASCAR
- Joined ESPN in 2006
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Joe Horn was disappointed Friday morning, not as a former Pro Bowl wide receiver who once was fined for hiding a cellphone in a goal post pad, but as the parent of one of the 32 players selected in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft.
Horn had wanted the rest of the world to see the joy his son, South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn, experienced when the Carolina Panthers used the eighth pick to make him the first defensive player selected Thursday night.
Instead, he watched as broadcasts and other outlets focused on quarterback Aaron Rodgers wanting out of Green Bay and the five quarterbacks selected in the top 15 picks.
“Let me say this, I’m a huge Aaron Rodgers fan,” Horn told ESPN. “But last night when I saw that he was not happy with Green Bay … when I saw nothing at all was talked about my son, it kind of upset me and I was disappointed.
“To wake up this morning, I was expecting everybody to be saying, ‘Look, nobody thought Jaycee Horn was going to go top 10. Nobody expected he was going to be the first defensive player off the board.’ I thought it would be given a little more attention and there was none. It was very disappointing as a father.”
Initially, Horn was so upset that he referred to Rodgers as “selfish” for saying he didn’t want to return to Green Bay on the eve of the draft. After learning Rodgers simply was the subject of a story broken by ESPN’s Adam Schefter and didn’t publicly do something to spoil the night of draft picks he admitted “I jumped the gun.”
However, the disappointment still was there for Horn because his son and others selected in the first round weren’t celebrated in the way he felt was appropriate.
Horn laughed and added Jaycee never knew he was even upset.
“I never let my emotions take over my thoughts, but this morning after all that time the fatherly instinct, love, came out of me,” Horn said by phone as he drove to Charlotte to see his son officially introduced. “I’m just very happy he’s happy with the Panthers.”
Jaycee was selected one pick ahead of Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II, another second-generation NFL player that shook up the first round by ending the string of offensive players. Surtain is the son of Patrick Surtain Sr., a three-time Pro Bowl selection as a cornerback for the Miami Dolphins.
The New Orleans Saints were trying to trade up from the 28th pick for one of the top two corners but couldn’t get a deal. Dallas traded back two spots from 10 when Horn and Surtain went ahead of them.
That, too, didn’t get much attention Thursday night.
“I understand they didn’t have [Jaycee] being drafted first [among defensive players],” Horn said of the way the draft went against many analysts saying the top nine players would be on offense. “I understand it makes them look bad, but it’s just disappointing. ”
Horn wasn’t speaking as the once-flamboyant NFL player that in a 2003 primetime game for New Orleans celebrated a touchdown by making a call on flip phone he’d hidden pre-game. He was speaking as a father who wanted to see his son get the same type of coverage as Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who went No. 1 to Jacksonville.
“Jaycee hasn’t said a word,” Horn said. “He’s happy as ever to be even drafted but I’ve sat back and heard all the different opinions and now he doesn’t even get talked about because there pick was wrong.
“I’m saying they don’t even show him celebrating.”
Some analysts said the Panthers should have taken a quarterback at No. 8 to compete with Sam Darnold, the No. 3 pick of the 2018 draft that recently was acquired in a trade with the New York Jets.
Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields and Alabama’s Mac Jones still were on the board at No. 8, but the Panthers went with Horn because he fills a need as a shutdown press corner. That will allow defensive coordinator Phil Snow to play more man-to-man on critical downs.
That Jaycee learned from a father who played with the same edge the Panthers see in the son was another factor.
“He’s a rare physical specimen who also has the pedigree that’s hard to find,” Rhule said.
Horn doesn’t believe it’s coincidence that his son and Surtain were taken so highly. He said both have seen the blueprint that made them successful in the NFL.
A third second-generation player is expected to go in the second or third round tonight in Florida State cornerback Asante Samuel Jr., the son of four-time Pro Bowl corner and two-time Super Bowl champion Asante Samuel.
“You’ve got to understand, when you’re raising a son and that son knows you were a pretty good player in the NFL, a son always wants to outdo their dad,” Horn said. “They do. And it brings another training aspect in their mind and body.”
The flipside is the former NFL player on draft night thinks more like a father.
“It was hard sitting back,” Horn said. “Everybody has their own opinion, but I wanted to respond because I know what I raised.
“Last night was Jaycee’s night.”
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