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By LARRY VAUGHT
He only turned 18 last month, but Ohio running back Mike Horton was already wise enough to realize how much he had to learn after he got to Kentucky in January.
“I have just been adjusting to everything. Being a young Cat with older guys is different,” said Horton. “People better than me are teaching me and that’s totally different. It’s a very humbling experience. But I am having a great time and the time of my life.”
The freshman says the older players are helping him most with the “mental aspect” of football.
“I have college body, so I am not worried about lifting and speed. But the mental aspect, the mental toughness, pushing through when hard when you think you can’t. I never had to do that in high school.
He said he’s watched players like JoJo Kemp, Alex Montgomery Jeff Badet and Braylon Heard closely.
“They came in the same way I came in not knowing and they are animals and became something very special,” Horton said.
The 6-1, 225-pound Horton, a four-star prospect, rushed for 1,203 yards and 13 touchdowns on 178 carries for Lakota West High School last season. He also led the team with 19 catches for 249 yards and two scores.
Horton, who also wrestled and ran track in high school, had a chance to go to national champion Florida State but stuck with his commitment to Kentucky.
“He’s a bruiser, a third-down running back, a big, powerful running back,” UK freshman receiver Thaddeus Snodgrass said. “I think he is already ready for the SEC.”
Horton also considered Louisville and Michigan State but it was Florida State that “knocked on the door” the hardest even after he committed to UK.
“I wasn’t changing my mind,” Horton said. “Coach (Mark) Stoops is one of the most uplifting guys. He is a father figure to all of us. We show great respect to him. My bond in the 2014 class is the same as the coaching staff. We are pretty much equal. It felt right (at Kentucky). It’s not home, but it felt like home. Being in this class made my decision very easy.”
He cited the chance for playing time as one reason he came to UK.
“We got a lot of running backs,” Horton said. “Playing time, I am not even thinking about that right now. I am thinking about adjusting to the college game. My main focus is school, learning the playbook, pushing my body to the limit to play in the SEC three or four years. Playing time will come if I do the right things.”
He also said the “brotherhood” of the UK recruiting class was a major reason he never faltered on playing for Kentucky.
“We came in early together and made our choice early together,” Horton said. “We plan to stay all four years unless someone is a first-round draft pick. Our class is strong, our bond is strong. It has been a very smooth process coming in early.”
Horton even said he had no second thoughts about turning down Florida State even when he watched the Seminoles beat Auburn in the national title game.
“I was happy for Florida State. It was a hard choice to make and I loved both of them, but I chose here,” Horton said.
Even the balmy winter weather in Florida compared to the recent snow, ice and cold hasn’t given Horton any second thoughts about not picking Florida State.
“This (weather) is way better than Ohio. Ohio is Alaska. It is ver snowy. I am used to it, so it is not bad,” Horton said.
What he was not used to was a SEC playbook like the one offensive coordinator Neal Brown has.
“It is not a child’s book. It is a lot of pages,” Horton said. “But if you take your time and focus on your job it is very easy. I got the playbook locked down a little bit. Hopefully by spring I will be doing very good.”
He said his high school team probably ran four plays — with three of them going to him.
“Here it is a lot different. Lot of motion and stuff to adjust to,” Horton said.