In the summer of 2010, Head Football Coach Bob Bartolomeo saw the University of Indianapolis wide receiver who would set and break multiple records before he would graduate for the first time. Little did Bartolomeo know that this receiver would pursue a dream in the National Football League. On Sunday, May 1, UIndy alum Reece Horn got the call from the Indianapolis Colts inviting to attend the Colts Rookie Mini Camp May 6-8.
“The draft itself was really nerve racking, I guess,” Horn said. “So when I got the call from the Colts that was a really good feeling…. I’m just looking forward to it, to be honest. [I’m] ready to get to work. [I’m] ready to prove myself and to show that I should be there. I’m not happy with just being there, but I’m also just happy with competing, and I’m ready to get down to that because it’s what I love to do.”
Horn’s football career began in the third grade with tackle football. And when he got to high school, his older brother Jonathan informed him that he was going to be a receiver whether he wanted to or not.
“I just always grew up with the love and the passion for that [football], and got to Cathedral High School here in Indy, and my brother was a senior at the time when I was a freshman. He was a starting receiver on varsity, so he was like, ‘You’re going to be a receiver; you have no choice,’” Horn said. “So I started picking up the habits of that, and was like, ‘Wow, this is actually pretty fun.’”
Since graduating in December, Horn has been training at St. Vincent Sports Performance in Carmel. After exploring various offers, he settled on training in Indianapolis to avoid distractions. The training at St. Vincent was a three-month process with five meals a day and two workouts every day for six days a week. Horn said it was one of the most intense workouts he has ever been through, but it also was one of the most rewarding.
“We were going through the process [of deciding where I wanted to train], and there were a couple of other facilities around the country that reached out, as far as training, and St. Vincent was one of them,” Horn said. “And I thought it would be a no better situation than for me to stay here in Indy, [and] not get distracted. A lot of other college athletes go either out to Arizona or down to Florida to train for the NFL, and there’s just too many distractions down there…. I just fell in love with the program…the head trainer there, Greg Moore—I work with him on a daily basis. He get’s you faster, bigger and stronger, and that’s the best trainer I’ve ever had. So that’s kind of how I chose St. Vincent’s. I wanted to stay in Indy. It’s close to friends and family, and [there are] no distractions.”
Horn trained with 10 other men from around the country at St. Vincent and was the only Division II man there. He said that being the only one from a DII program was cool, but he came in with a chip on his shoulder because of the DII stigma.
“There’s a DII stigma, just on DII football, just because of the competition. But if you put in the work and you put in the time and effort, you’re going to get noticed. And I think that’s just what it all comes down to, just working hard and just letting your actions speaker louder than your words…. You can’t take anything for granted. I literally just engulfed myself with training, Monday through Saturday, and never looking at it as ‘I have to do this.’ It’s like ‘I get to do this,’” Horn said. “There are so many other athletes around the country, maybe around the world, that would die to be in this position, to actually have a chance to make it to the next level. So I did it for myself, but I think my thought process was, ‘I have so much more to give.’
“I’m not at the best I’ve been yet, and that’s just kind of how the mindset that I took into every single workout was: show up early, leave late, [and] do extra reps, because you still have so much to prove. Me being the only DII guy there, it’s not like I came in there with anything to gloat or glow about, whatever you want to call it, so I pretty much just buried my head and grinded every day. [I] was the first in line, the last to leave and was always asking questions.”
In the three-month span of training, Horn attended a Pro Day at Ball State University on March 24 and then the Colts Pro Day on April 6.
“Seeing all of those Indianapolis prospects [at the Colts Pro Day] was good,” Horn said, “and just the level of competition is really high. So to know that you can compete at that level, that’s kind of what it was, that was the feeling at the Colts Pro Day. It was an honor to run routes in front of [Colts Offensive Coordinator Rob] Chudzinski and [Colts Head] Coach [Chuck] Pagano and their whole staff as well. [I] shook their hands right after and said thanks for having me and hopefully I’ll be hearing from you guys soon, and I did.”
Looking back, Horn said that he never would have imagined being in this situation.
“If you would have told me four years ago that I would have been getting ready to play football for the Indianapolis Colts as a rookie that, that’s crazy. I never would have wrapped my head around that, because there’s so many things that could happen,” Horn said. “But you’ve got to look at where you’ve been and how far you’ve come—but better yet, where you’re going. And I think that gets me most pumped and most excited and focused is [that] I have so much to grow as an athlete and to show the Colts staff that this Horn kid needs to stay around, [that] we need to keep him here, [that] he’s a valuable asset to our team, not a liability. So this whole process has been awesome.”
Horn said that through these last three months, he has met some great people and bettered relationships that he already had.
“I’ve met some unbelievable friends from around the country that I’ll always stay in touch with for life,” Horn said. “I’ve gotten closer with my parents, definitely have gotten closer with my parents because they’ve been behind me through this entire process, and they know it hasn’t been easy, but it’s been worth it. I’ve made some great connections through St. Vincent’s, and that’s like my second home now, and through that whole staff there.”
The group of men that Horn trained with all were picked up by an NFL team after training at St. Vincent, and Horn believes that shows the quality of the program he went through.
“It’s just an awesome class. Each one of us got picked up by a team, and that’s just a true testament to St. Vincent’s, each athlete’s work ethic and their perseverance, because this isn’t easy. None of it’s easy, but it’s definitely worth it. [It was a] great class all around…. I think that’s just a true testament to the game of football. Never settle and never think what if, and always go for it, so just give your all, and if it doesn’t work it, then it doesn’t work out. And then you can at least seriously look at yourself in the mirror and say, ‘All right I did give it my all; I never questioned this and that.’ And then you go from there.”
Horn has received advice from various people during his life, but there have been two pieces of advice that he said have stuck with him the whole time. The first Horn got was from his father in third grade. He said, “Give them a reason to keep you around and notice you.” Horn said he has carried that with him his whole life, and it has worked out so far. Later in high school, one of his coaches told him to “always be humble, but always be the hardest worker in the room, and give them a reason to notice you.”
Throughout this whole process, Horn has had the support of friends, family and UIndy faculty, and he is thankful for that.
“It’s awesome having friends and family here in Indy, and from other places, too—former people who graduate here at UIndy that played football with me, friends and family that are reaching out that have heard what I’ve been able to do so far. [They are all supporting me],” Horn said. “And it’s just nice to definitely have that support. But you want to live up to it, that’s for sure. And that only happens with working your butt off with the opportunity itself. It’s awesome, though. I couldn’t ask for anything better, best parents in the word. [They] have had my back since day one. They knew I wanted this. Friends and family [and Strength and Conditioning] Coach [Steve] Barrick here at UIndy [and] the strength staff have been unreal with always reaching out and always wanting to know what’s going on. They always say never to hesitate to call, so that’s always a good feeling.”
Since Horn stepped on UIndy’s campus in 2011, Bartolomeo has seen Horn’s leadership skills and physical attributes improve.
“He’s developed his body; that’s the biggest thing,” Bartolomeo said. “I mean he is a solid 215 [lbs.], or whatever he is now. He’s worked at the weights, [and] he’s gotten himself [to be] more of a physical player. I think that has helped with his speed [and] becoming faster. He’s got himself all set that way in terms of the physical attributes that you need to have. He’s really developed himself through hard work [and] has become more of a polished receiver through hard work and drills. He just comes to work every day and just works at it.
“He did get better in leadership skills and realizing that people looked up to him. He was kind of, I don’t want to say a guy who didn’t realize it, but I don’t think he realized it to what magnitude people looked up to him. I said ‘Hey, every move you make people are looking up, whether you’re a minute before or five minutes before the bus leaves.’ Little things [like that], that people notice about him, and he got better and better with that. [He] took that responsibility and ran with it, and I think he’s done a good job with that while he was here.”
Bartolomeo said that Horn will be successful at whatever he does because of his work habits and leadership skills. He said that he believes Horn has all of the attributes of a successful person. Bartolomeo said that Horn has been successful at every stage, and he is excited to see what Horn does in the future, but he believes that even though the hard work is there, the stars still need to align.
“There’s a million people that play high school football, 38,000 play college and 1,700 are in the NFL,” Bartolomeo said. “It’s a very select group that gets to play in the National Football League. So he’s got to get lucky and get with the right team that utilizes a guy like himself. So hopefully it will work…. People get tired of hearing me say it, but there was nobody that worked harder on the practice field than Reece. You know, if you took away his reps he got mad…. I think that shows the competitor in him. I think it shows how important it is. I think it shows how much better he thinks he can be by getting reps and he was a reps’ guy. I mean he wouldn’t, [but] a lot of guys would shy away, [thinking] ‘Maybe I’ll save myself.’ He was not a ‘save myself’ kind of guy. He was ‘Let’s go, put me in, get me better.’ And that’s huge.”