May 21, 2008

Horton preparing for summer arrival

The lights were about to come on, and there wasn't going to be anywhere to hide.

It was the most talent he'd ever seen in one place, and there would be more people watching him than ever had before.

It was just before kickoff at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, and Wes Horton was nervous.

"Once the game started, I was cool," he said. "I just had fun."

Turns out, Horton loved testing himself against the nation's top prep talent - a task that seemed rather daunting considering all the talent in San Antonio this past January.

"At first, it can be a little overwhelming. But, once you actually get out there and practice, I didn't think too much of it," he said. "I just played.

"Playing in the Army game, the game speed was so much faster, and there was more intensity than there was in high school. It was nice to just be able to focus on playing defensive end, coming off the edge every snap."

Playing against the best, you can't take one play off or you'll get killed.

The time Horton, a four-star defensive end from Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, Calif., spent practicing and playing at the Army game helped give him a taste about what lies ahead.

"It's all about being able to compete at such a high level each and every play. In high school, we're the best of the best. We can basically do what we want to do because we're the best," Horton said. "At the next level, you have to be on a high level every single play. It takes a lot to be able to compete like that on every play.

"That's a huge adjustment. There are a ton of aspects, and I just want to go in with an open mind, try to learn the playbook and be ready to play right away."

Luckily for Horton, he'll have plenty of help.

After starting six games at safety for UNLV as a freshman, Horton's brother Shane transferred to USC in January.

With Shane on board, his little brother had plenty of reason to spend a lot of time around campus.

"It's great that I'll have my brother with me. I go up there a lot to see how he's doing, so I know a lot of the guy already," Horton said. "That's just one more reason why I'm so excited to be up there."

The chance to play with his brother came about quickly.

"It's crazy. Things just kind of worked out that way," Horton said. "It was kind of a last-minute deal. I didn't even think it would happen, but sure enough, it happened and he's here. We're still kind of overwhelmed."

In addition to Shane, Horton's also been able to turn to his father, Mike, for plenty of help. Mike Horton, a trainer and former guard for UCLA, has been working with Horton since he was in middle school.

"He knows his stuff. Because he played, he knows what I need to do to be a good football player," Horton said. "I've got complete confidence in what he has me doing. He's definitely gotten me bigger and stronger.

"I'm excited to see all the hard work we put in together."

By working predominately in the weight room and not running track, Horton's gotten his weight up to 258 pounds this spring.

"Track workouts are for track guys. It's good, but my dad came up with stuff that's more specific for me," he said. "I was lifting four or five times per week, and three weeks ago, I started running at my school four days a week.

"I'm trying to get my endurance better running because I know come this summer, they're going to be killing us."

But even though summer days working out on campus might not be that much fun, Horton's ready for them to come.

It's something he's been waiting for.

"I've been committed for such a long time, since my junior year. I've just been waiting forever it seems," Horton said. "Now that it's here, I'm just ready to move on to the next stage of my life and get ready for the college experience - being on my own, managing my time, going to class and just growing up.

"I've been a Trojan for a long time. For it to finally be here, it's just crazy."

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