Arriving at USC in 2008 from nearby Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame, defensive end Wes Horton would eventually develop into one of the Trojans’ most consistent performers during his time on campus, making a total of 32 starts.
Possessing 6-foot-5, 255-pound size to go along with his unique athletic talents and strong technical skills, he amassed 43 tackles and 6.5 tackles for loss, including 5.5 sacks, in his redshirt senior campaign in 2012 despite being hampered by an injury early in the season.
Now gearing up for a shot at the NFL, Horton took time out of his busy schedule to talk to WeAreSC as he prepares to participate in the East-West Shrine Game, set to take place on Saturday in St. Petersburg, Fla.
WeAreSC: Talk a little about what you’ve been up to since the season concluded.
Horton: Currently I’m down in Tampa, Florida for the Shrine game. I just had practice today, and it’s been a real tight schedule -- just crunching…meetings, practice and more meetings. It’s been pretty hectic, but it’s been fun. Before that I started training down in Irvine, where my agency is. So I’ve been lifting about two times a day, eating healthy and just trying to get ready for the next level.
WeAreSC: Talk about the opportunity to play in the East-West Shrine Game and what you’re looking to take away from the experience.
Horton: It’s really exciting. I definitely saw it as an opportunity to show what I can do from a pass-rush standpoint, a work ethic standpoint in practice -- going through drills hard, just pretty much competing with the best players in the country. And if I do well and win a lot of these one-on-ones, then I think it will do nothing but help out my stock.
WeAreSC: What is your major and your graduation status?
Horton: Human Performance -- it’s like Kinesiology. It’s a new major that USC came out with three or four years ago…I still have one more class to take -- one more four-unit class. I was debating about taking it this semester or not, but I’m obviously already going to miss the first week of classes, and there’s a lot of stuff that’s come up, so I’m planning on taking it next spring.
WeAreSC: What was it like playing your home games in the Coliseum?
Horton: The one way I can best describe it is that it’s just a special place. It has so much history, and for the most part, it was always sold out with thousands of people cheering for the Trojans. And obviously walking out of that tunnel, pretty much every time, it gave me the chills. Just seeing all of the Trojan faithful, and walking out knowing that they’ve got your back and that you’re playing for them. It was just exciting and I definitely never took it for granted. Every time we had a home game and we played in the Coliseum, it was our house. Looking back, it’s definitely a special place. I’m going to miss it, and there’s no other stadium like it in my opinion.
WeAreSC: What is your top on-field memory at USC?
Horton: I think one of the most exciting memories that I have was my second start ever as a Trojan -- my redshirt freshman year when we played Ohio State at The Horseshoe. Just seeing that many people -- it was noticeably more than the Coliseum. I just didn’t even think it was possible that they could have a stadium that big. And the implications of that game going in were so big, because both of us were ranked high, and I think College GameDay was there, and here I was, just 18 or 19 years old getting my second start. I think I played pretty well for the most part, but just having that memory of getting through a tough game where it was close for a majority of the time and then pulling it out in the fourth quarter, it was probably one of my best on-the-field moments as a Trojan.
WeAreSC: Talk about playing for USC defensive line coach Ed Orgeron and the influence that he’s had on you.
Horton: It’s huge. It’s truly a blessing to have had him as my D-line coach. He molded me into the player that I wanted to be coming in at USC. The biggest thing with Coach O is that he never lets you get complacent. No matter how many sacks you get in a game, or how many tackles or how well you’re playing your technique, there’s always something that he’s right in your face looking to correct -- pushing you to take your game to the next level.
WeAreSC: You had the opportunity to play with your brother, Shane, at USC. What did you take away from that experience and how big was that for you?
Horton: It was huge. I think that having an older brother that has kind of done everything before you, you look up to him for advice. And I think throughout my whole time at USC that he was there, he was that guy that was constantly pushing me and trying to get me better, and I would try to get him better. And any time that we had a moment on the field together, it was just special. You know, at the end of a play flying in on a pile and just knowing that’s your brother right there -- I don’t think there’s a better feeling in life than that.
WeAreSC: What will you miss most about being a student at USC?
Horton: I had so many friends at USC. It’s such a diverse, unique school. Just meeting intelligent, bright, opportunistic people from that school that aren’t just ordinary people. And those relationships that I have, I think that they will continue even though I’m not there anymore. There was just always something fun to do around SC.
WeAreSC: What was your favorite class that you took at USC?
Horton: I took a television symposium class where they would bring in the director, producer…all of these people from these big-time ABC or NBC TV shows -- pretty much giving the run-down on how the show is made and the ideas behind it. And it all goes back to the USC network and how they just know people that are big-time directors, producers and people like that.
WeAreSC: Favorite on or off-campus eating spot?
Horton: Probably The Pantry. I would go there religiously and get pancakes or an omelet.
WeAreSC: If you had one message to send to USC fans, what would it be?
Horton: I would say, regardless of our record this year, or some years where we’re up on top and other years where we’re not, that SC football is more than just what’s happening now. It’s the past, the players that came though here and it’s the type of players that these coaches recruit that makes SC a special place. And to not give up on your team because SC will be right back in that national spotlight because we continue to get the best student athletes in the country, and the way these coaches prepare us is going to get us back in that national championship spotlight again.