Jaycee Horn ready for the pressure


CHARLOTTE — Jaycee Horn is accustomed to the pressure. And it drives him.

The Panthers' first-round pick said Friday on his first day in his new professional home, that growing up in an NFL family (he's the son of former Saints wideout Joe Horn) meant there was never a day when he could let up in practice, because everyone was watching his every move.

"Growing up in Atlanta, especially being Joe Horn's son, you had to be some kind of dog because everybody's going to be at your neck," Horn said Friday.

The elder Horn said that his son was not only a dog, but also "a lion," and that's certainly what the Panthers expect from the eighth overall selection.

Panthers head coach Matt Rhule made that clear, saying they expect Horn to start opposite Donte Jackson, and play a big role against the many big receivers the Panthers have to face in that division.

"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," Rhule said. "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."

That kind of expectation is nothing new to Horn, who had to face all the top wideouts in the SEC (including first-rounders from Alabama Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith), along with new Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts from Florida.

Horn said he's chatted back and forth with Pitts lately, and looks forward to seeing him a twice a year. Since they have the same agent, they've had a chance to work out together, and Horn joked that he's already told his current and former division rival

"Good relationship, good friends, we talk a lot of trash," Horn said. "After the draft, he called me and said 'I hope you're ready,' and I was telling him 'Yeah, I'm going to lock that up.'"

That's what the Panthers are hoping for, having made such a significant investment in him.

A year ago, they were 28th in the league in third-down percentage allowed (49.2 percent), and 25th in passer rating allowed (98.4). Rhule mentioned the inability to get off the field on third down as one of the things they knew they had to fix this offseason, and adding a cornerback you can trust alone on a top receiver's a huge step in that direction.

"Cover a guy one-on-one, take away a side of the field, that is what excited us," general manager Scott Fitterer said. "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."

There's also the possibility that even the best rookie doesn't know what he doesn't know yet, but that's another area where having a former player for a father helps. In addition to being able to talk Xs and Os with his son, Joe Horn also taught him how to be a pro, and the kind of attitude he's going to need to take on such a tall task as the one in front of him.

"He gave me a lot of advice, but the two main things were first, never feeling like I know it all, keeping that empty cup and being willing to learn from any and everybody in the building. Learn from the vets, learn from the coaches, everybody.

"And two, just recently he was telling me that it's a business. You've been picked high, you've got a job to do out there, and it comes with a lot of weight. So make sure you're prepared, and ready, and be there when the time comes."

The Panthers are counting on him being ready for that challenge.

As many big stages as he's been on already, Horn admitted he "shed a few tears" when he walked into his new home Friday.

And with that out of the way, he's ready to go to work, and live up to the plans the Panthers have for him.

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