Redskins rookie Chris Horton is walking in his idol's footsteps
In a film room at Redskins Park, rookie safety
When Taylor was shot and killed last November, Horton was a senior at UCLA, an accomplished college player though not much of a pro prospect. The Redskins took him with their last pick in the draft, 249th overall. Only three players were drafted after Horton. If the Redskins were looking for a safety to help replace Taylor, one who could bait and blitz opposing quarterbacks, surely they could not find him in the seventh round.
And yet, thanks to
The first time Horton walked into Redskins Park, he paused at Taylor's locker, encased in glass. Now, before every practice, he stops at the locker and peers inside. Horton never played with Taylor, but he is occupying one of the Redskins two safety spots, and thus carrying on his legacy. Horton has never been as acclaimed as Taylor, but he too is a relentless worker and a punishing hitter with an uncanny sense for the ball.
The Redskins are in a state of disarray right now, having lost four of five games. Tailback
Seventh round picks do not start as rookies, not without an incredibly fortuitous bounce. For Colston, the break came in training camp two years ago, when the Saints traded receiver
It was Doughty who calmed him down. He sent Horton a text message that read: "I believe in you. I know you can do this. I've watched you practice and play. It doesn't change. Just do what you've been doing." In his first career start, Horton intercepted two passes, recovered a fumble and helped the Redskins beat the Saints. Doughty came back to start the following week against Arizona, but after that the job was Horton's for good.
Redskins' blogger Homer McFanboy started referring to Horton as The Predator -- because of his shoulder-length hair and aggressive style -- and somehow the nickname stuck. Horton is so enamored with the moniker that his website is www.predator48.com.
Like most late-round draft picks, Horton is fueled by all the teams that passed on him, determined to make them pay. He still does not understand why he lasted until pick No. 249, but his college career was at times tumultuous. He broke his foot, needed surgery on his wrist and played for a head coach,
In 2005, when Hurricane Katrina swept through New Orleans, a tree fell through the roof of Horton's family's home in Metairie, La., destroying the house and virtually everything inside of it. Most of Horton's family had evacuated to a Houston suburb, but his 90-year-old great-grandfather,
For all the challenges Horton endured in his college years, he made a couple of contacts who were crucial in getting him to Redskins Park. One was
It helped that Horton's defensive coordinator had been there, too.
Horton worked himself onto the team, into the starting lineup, possibly all the way to the Pro Bowl. Last season, the Redskins sent three players to Hawaii, each of whom paid tribute Taylor by wearing jersey No. 21 in the game. This season, Horton could be the one to honor Taylor at the Pro Bowl, just by taking his place on the field.