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 goalpost 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 being “selfish” for saying he didn’t want to return to Green Bay on the day of the draft. But after learning that 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 the 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 that Jaycee never even knew he was 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.”
Jayce also laughed about the whole thing, saying later Friday that his dad asked him if he’d been watching ESPN.
“I said, ‘Nah, I haven’t had the time,'” Jaycee said after arriving at Bank of America Stadium for his introductory news conference. “I’m sure he was watching, and it probably [did] upset him a little bit.
“It’s just a dad being a dad. My dad doesn’t say much. If that’s how he feels, that’s how he feels. Me, I’m just ready to play football.”
Jaycee was selected one pick ahead of Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II, another second-generation NFL player, as they 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 done. 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 who had said the top nine players taken would be on offense. “I understand it makes them look bad, but it’s just disappointing. ”
Horn wasn’t speaking as the flamboyant NFL player who in a 2003 prime-time game with New Orleans celebrated a touchdown by making a call on flip phone he’d hidden pregame. 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 their pick was wrong.
“I’m saying they don’t even show him celebrating.”
Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields and Alabama QB Mac Jones were still 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,” Panthers coach Matt Rhule said.
Horn doesn’t believe it’s a coincidence that his son and Surtain were taken so highly. He said both have seen the blueprint for NFL success.
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 the four-time Pro Bowl corner and two-time Super Bowl champion.
“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 flip side is that the former NFL player thinks more like a father on draft night.
“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.”