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Flames Feature --- "Blue-Collar" Horn Blows On Liberty Mountain
After earning first-team Big South honors last season, his first on Liberty Mountain, the Flames faithful can't be anything but ecstatic for the steal they received. Horn led the Big South in tackles by a lineman, averaging 5.5 per game while finishing 54th in the nation in tackles for a loss (1.18 per game). Horn also earned VaSID second-team all-state honors as well as being named to the Football Gazette NCAA I-AA Southeast all-region team.
Those distinctions led Horn to Big South preseason all-conference honors heading into the 2006 campaign. Much has changed in the Flames football program since Horn first stepped on campus a year ago. The Phoenix, Ariz. native accomplished his feats last season in the midst of a 1-10 football campaign that led to the hiring of former Virginia Associate Head Coach Danny Rocco.
Rocco has lifted the spirits of a football program that only a year ago was a chore for the players to be a part of. Today the team finds excitement in taking the field every day. "When I first got here a year ago, everyone was down before we even played a game and no one was excited," said Horn. "When we started spring ball this year, there was a buzz around. We couldn't wait to get out there; it was like Pop Warner football days again."
With the excitement of Rocco's hiring, a positive atmosphere was immediately developed, creating a strong desire within the players to improve themselves. "Many guys stayed here for the summer to lift, to get bigger, stronger and faster," said Horn. "We wanted to take every step necessary to be a winner and Coach Rocco has showed us what those steps are."
Rocco looks at Horn as a great role model during off-season workouts. "He was phenomenal in the weight room, working hard in everything he did," commented Rocco. "I am excited to have him in the locker room."
New to Flames football and Horn this year is the 3-4 defense that Rocco brought to town with him. Horn likes the change of pace for the defense commenting, "It harder for other teams to prepare for you because you don't know who is coming, what is coming and when it's coming," said Horn.
The new defense is going to benefit the Flames defensive line and the linebacker core. "We have a number of talented [line] backers that can fill in the scheme that play hard and our D-line is strong up front which really makes me excited," said Horn.
Horn was an all-state performer at North Canyon High School in Phoenix, Ariz. where he earned the Phoenix Player of the Year honor, awarded by the Arizona Republic. Despite being a top player in the state, Horn decided to go the junior college route which proved to be a great learning experience.
"I got to play against a lot of really good players at the JUCO level that have gone on to big programs like Southern California," said Horn. "Taking those experiences and learning the college game and learning what a defensive game plan really is prepared me well for the transition to Liberty last season."
Horn has loved his experience at Liberty off the field as well. "Liberty is different than any other place I know," said Horn. "It's amazing, the teachers go out of their way for you, and everyone is so nice. The new friends I have made I can rely on, which wasn't the case back at home."
Horn went on to state that "Everyone is caring. If something is going on with your family, they are there days after making sure things are alright, which is something I have never experienced. It is awesome."
Horn has been a rock of strength for his family. Horn's mother, Karen, raised Jason and his fraternal twin brother John as a single mother for most of her boys' lives. Karen's brother David Noziglia, who had played collegiate football at Cornell, was a father figure to his nephews until his sudden death while the boys were in high school.
"My uncle Dave was like a dad to me," said Horn. "He is the one who taught me how to be a man, a great role model. When he passed I had to become the man in the family and take care of my mom."
That strength and determination are reasons that Rocco loves to have Horn on his team. "He is a blue-collar guy," said Rocco. "The kids respect him on and off the field; that's why they voted him a captain at the end of spring camp."
Expectations are high on the "Mountain" this season and Horn has high expectations of himself as a captain. "I expect to show what a captain is, both on and off the field," said Horn. "I want to show the Liberty Way, show commitment in the classroom and what it means to be a Christian. I also want to show the effort that it takes to win games and be a champion."
Horn expects to win in his final season. "We expect to win and we expect to attain our goals for each game," said Horn. A major force behind attaining those goals will be Horn.
"Jason is a guy with great power and explosion," continued Rocco. "He is physical and durable and I am excited to have him in the lineup."
Off the field, Horn is majoring in kinesiology and upon graduation would like to get a start in strength and conditioning in addition to coaching. Horn looks to intern with the Flames strength and conditioning department when the season is over.
But for now, Horn is concentrated on the new fire that is ablaze on Liberty Mountain. The towering inferno is picking up and the Flames faithful will have quite a spectacle to view at Williams Stadium in 2006. Horn will make sure the fire never dies as he takes his "blue collar" work ethic to the field leading Liberty to scorch the competition.
By Vincent Briedis
Liberty University Assistant Athletic Media Relations Director