The infectious smile is the same. The energetic personality hasn’t changed since he arrived on campus.
But Tyler Horton is no longer the hotshot young cornerback on the Boise State defense. He’s now the old man.
A junior, he has 25 games under his belt, while only one other player in the group (sophomore Reid Harrison-Ducros) has appeared in a game for the Broncos.
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“I’ve really been taking it in, the younger guys have been picking at my brain, so it’s been good to be there to help them with that,” Horton said. “When I was a freshman, the older guys, they took care of me. That’s the right thing to do, so they can be comfortable when they’re out there.”
From making two starts as a true freshman in 2015 to starting all 13 games last season, the 5-foot-11, 188-pound Horton has proved himself worthy of the expectations placed upon him after being offered scholarships by California, Miami (Fla.) and Houston out of high school in Fresno, Calif.
A preseason All-Mountain West selection this fall, Horton had 35 tackles last season, broke up nine passes and grabbed his only career interception, which he ran back 85 yards for a touchdown on Washington State’s opening drive in that BSU win.
“He might have been our best corner last year,” cornerbacks coach Ashley Ambrose said. “Some of the opportunities (Jonathan) Moxey had was because they didn’t want to throw at Tyler. He can be a special player. Now he has a whole year of starting, he has more confidence. He understands what we’re doing.”
Even as his position’s elder statesman, the things that made Horton able to play early remain.
“I just try to be myself. Growing up I heard you have to be a coachable player, and that’s what it’s about. I love to learn,” Horton said. “At the end of the day, I’m playing football, I’m in this good community, in this nice facility. I don’t know if it gets better than this, so there’s no need to be down.”
Horton’s magnetic personality is one that draws in players, and they look up to him.
“He’s a guy that can make you smile,” Ambrose said. “I’ve told him, ‘You may not realize it, but people gravitate toward you because of your personality and who you are as a person.’ There’s something about him. When he speaks, he does it with confidence.”
In spring camp, without Moxey and Raymond Ford, both graduated seniors, it was Horton’s chance to shine. Early on came a day “where you don’t know why, but nothing goes right,” Horton said. Ambrose challenged him to turn it around.
“The next day, he had two interceptions,” Ambrose said. “... That’s how he has to be every day. And he’s worked his tail off this offseason acting that way.”
Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said what impresses him most about Horton is his consistency “from weight room, classroom, meeting room to practice field.”
“When he goes out there, if it’s not perfect, he’s going to come back, play the next play, all the things you talk about. ... He’s a great example of that,” Harsin said.
Now Horton enters the second half of his college career. In the locker room before the first practice of fall camp Tuesday, Horton said the players “know what time it is.” He knows it’s his time to shine and to lead — and to try to outwork everyone.
“I just realize I’m getting older ... I’ve still got things to work on,” Horton said. “I’m taking it all in, helping those guys and enjoying the process.”