2021 Draft Day 1 Transcripts

CB Jaycee Horn

RE: What the moment was like being drafted

It means a lot. A lot of work put behind it, a lot of people mentoring me and helping mold me get to this moment. Being able to stay close to home, close to South Carolina, and I'm still in the Carolinas. It's just a blessing all around.

RE: The importance of being the first cornerback selected in the draft

It really wasn't important to me to be the top corner taken. I just was confident and believed in my technique and the way I play the game. I felt like I was the best.

RE: When he knew Carolina was thinking about drafting him

When Coach Rhule came to my pro day, I kind of had an idea. Then just talking to them throughout the whole process, I had an idea that they liked me. I talked to Coach Rhule last night actually. He called me around 10, and I was coming into today hoping they'd grab me at eight. That was a perfect landing spot for me. It all worked out the right way.

RE: His size and physicality

I definitely feel like that's one of my strengths, being able to match up with big receivers because of my size. I also have the speed and feet to match routes well with those great receivers in the conference. I can definitely understand the thought process behind the pick and I'm definitely ready to go show them – prove them right.

RE: The influence his dad, Joe Horn (former NFL wide receiver), had on him

He's helped me a lot. Him telling me stuff, not just now at this point, but throughout my whole life. It just came full circle as I was going through the process. It was definitely a big help.

RE: If he disliked the Panthers as a child while his dad played for the New Orleans Saints

I never disliked the Panthers. He really didn't tell me anything about the Panthers. I know he had a couple of big games against them, but nothing ever negative about them.

RE: What certain things stand out to you throughout your journey?

Really just all of the hard work and extra hours, extra studying. All of it paying off in this moment. I've been playing football my whole life and looking forward to this moment, but also understanding there's a lot more work to be done. There's a lot more gas I've got left in the tank and I'm just ready to get to work.

RE: Playing with an edge in college and continuing that in the NFL

I don't think it'll be a problem keeping it, that's just who I am. I've always played with it, so I don't ever see myself losing that edge. I feel like it's a big part of my game.

GM Scott Fitterer and HC Matt Rhule

Opening Statement

Fitterer: Just to lead off, I'd like to say how excited we are to have Jaycee (Horn) as a part of our team. We love the competitive makeup, the cover ability, just the person. He brings a lot of energy. I just think he's a really good fit for this team. We're excited to get him.

RE: If the team came close to trading down in the draft

Fitterer: We fielded calls but there wasn't anything that really kind of matched moving away from Jaycee who was the top player on our board at that time. He was just too good of a fit for us. The offers didn't match walking away from Jaycee, that's why we didn't do it.

RE: Reason for taking Horn over Justin Fields?

Fitterer: Again, he was just the top rated player on our board. We saw someone that could come in and make an immediate impact for us as a starter, as a corner, playing the opposite of Donte [Jackson]. He'll do a great job for us. We see him as his potential is unlimited and the immediate impact is why we did it.

RE: What separates Jaycee Horn from the other cornerbacks in the draft

Fitterer: Just focusing on Jaycee, what he does so well is his man cover ability, his quickness, the feistiness of him as a player, his ability to mirror and turn and run with the receivers. He's the exact fit that Coach [Phil] Snow wants on our defense. We just saw the best fit with him.

RE: If there was much discussion about Justin Fields and if taking a defensive player speaks to the team's confidence in Sam Darnold

Rhule: Again, we felt like, I'm not going to talk about other players, we brought Sam [Darnold] here for a reason. We're excited to see what he can do. We're excited to give him an opportunity. We traded for him because we believe in his potential. At the same time, to us corner is a position, if you go back to last year, there were times we just couldn't get off the field. So it's been an issue we tried to address in free agency. In the NFC South, with the big receivers we have to deal with, this is a young man in Jaycee who his dad (Joe Horn) was a great NFL player, he's grown up with it his whole life, played at the highest level. He's got 33 inch arms. He's 6'1 whatever he is. Ran a 4.3. Jumped 42 inches. He's a rare physical specimen who also has the pedigree that's hard to find. When you get in this process you're obviously comparing people against everybody but getting this type of a corner, in the league that we play in, is an opportunity for us to address something that's been an issue for us. To come in along with the guys we signed in free agency. We think he's a special player and we are excited to see him.

Fitterer: Everything Coach said is accurate. We just like his ability to step on the field and compete Day 1, to start. We need corners on this team to compete against other receivers in the league, in our division. Jaycee, with his competitive makeup, Coach talked about the length, talked about the man coverage ability. That's what we liked about him. That's why we chose him.

RE: What Rhule learned about Horn off the field

Rhule: I had the chance to go to the Pro Day. There's not a person at South Carolina that doesn't talk really well about him. Talking to him, as I said, he is somebody that is extremely serious about not just being an NFL player but being a great NFL player. Knows this region, obviously, not too far away playing, playing right down the road in Columbia. As I said, besides just being a great player, is a good person and is also a really good fit for us in terms of understanding what it means to be an NFL player. He's seen it his whole life. There's a lot of things fit wise that just made too much sense.

RE: Rhule's initial reaction to seeing Horn on tape

Rhule: He jumped off the tape. I think we had three guys ranked in the top five, at the top of that round. I think when you watch Jaycee Horn play on tape, it just jumps off the tape. His competitiveness. His ability to do a lot of different things. When you play bump and run corner in the SEC, with your back turned to the quarterback, you aren't going to have a ton (of interceptions) but he did have production. He did have interceptions if you go back to the Auburn game this year. We see that he can do a lot of different things. Again, it fits a need for us.

RE: If Fitterer could expand on his comments that a press corner could really add a lot to this defense and how Horn can make the defense a little more special than it was before today

Fitterer: Obviously, through free agency we added more pass rush, we have Donte (Jackson) on the other side, brought in AJ Bouye, we like our young guys; but just to add someone with the competitive makeup that Jaycee has, that edge that he brings to the team and just his overall skillset to cover. Cover a guy one‐on‐one, take away a side of the field, that is what excited us. Like Coach said, it jumped out on tape. Then you get to meet the person, you hear him talk, the way he carries himself, he is a pro, I think the transition will be quick with him. So we are excited to get him.

Rhule: I think when you look at the NFC South, the big receivers we have to face week in and week out, obviously you have Mike Evans, you have Chris Godwin, you have Michael Thomas, you have Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, now Kyle Pitts. It is going to take a lot of guys who can cover and also cover really big men. You know how we feel about Donte, we're excited about the guys we brought in last year but there is a size match up in the NFC South that matters and he checks that box for us.

RE: If there was there any discussion as Penei Sewell passed Cincinnati to try to trade up to address that position and if offensive line depth in the draft and the possibility of getting someone in the second round enabled the team to use the pick on defense

Fitterer: We were monitoring all of the players as they came off the board. We really liked Sewell. Big fans of Jaycee Horn and we're just so happy to have Jaycee and the way he helps our team.

RE: How Horn allows the team to take a different approach defensively from last year when the team played a lot of zone

Rhule: We played a lot of man too last year. We play zone, we play man, we're always going to be really versatile with what Phil does, even within what people might call "zones" like on PFF, we'll single up a guy, we'll lock a guy up. The more guys we have that can play man coverage, especially on third down. To me this year for us this off season has been all about how do we address third down, the red zone and two minute end of game. The ability, versus the quarterbacks we're facing, to play zone on third down is really hard. We weren't able to play much man on third down last year, we did play some, but this allows us to play more man on third down. But even within our zone coverages there's a lot of man components that when you have a guy who can do it, really unlocks the coverages and allows you to do more.

RE: If there was a particular game or moment that Rhule saw from Horn in which he "jumped to the front of the pack"

Rhule: I watched them all. I'd say the Auburn game for me, probably. He's playing against really good wide outs, guys that you're going to see get drafted. You feel him, you feel him play. I like the way our defense is coming in Carolina. I think when you have guys like Derrick Brown and Brian Burns and Shaq Thompson and Jeremy Chinn and a whole bunch more, I don't want to leave anyone out; there's going to be a certain way that we play. You're going to have to match that intensity and I think Jaycee's naturally got that. Pair him with Donte, AJ and the other guys that we have and I think our corner room becomes a real strength.

RE: If Horn was "already the clubhouse leader" when Rhule attended his pro day

Rhule: No, Scott's process is, we all went out, gathered information, came back and then we just kind of watched everyone together. To me it was just a process of everyone getting as much information. What is unique nowadays, I guess it has been that way for a while, we can watch all the pro days, Scott and I and a couple of other guys were locked in a room for the last 96 hours or whatever it is just re‐watching guys. But it was good to see him live but all of us have had a chance to Zoom with him, talk to him, talk to people who know him, talk to people who have played against him and I think everyone in the organization's on board.

View photos of cornerback Jaycee Horn during his career with the Gamecocks.

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