THE GRIND Presented by Carolina Grove: Clarendon Hall's Horton looks to set an example for a younger generation after committing to USC


Kylic Horton has been a star basically since the day he walked into Clarendon Hall.

Horton has won two SCISA 1A basketball state championships with the Saints and transformed into one of the best players in SCISA 8-man football during his three years of high school.

That illustrious career started very simply. Just a father and son and a love for sports.

Horton's father, Johnny, got the Saint started early, playing youth baseball in Holly Hill. Then the elder Horton started a local youth football program, where his son starred as a quarterback. Horton's true passion for sports came when he started playing basketball.

"I kind of fell off from football and started playing basketball. Basketball was my love," Horton said.

Throughout the journey, Horton had his father in his corner, even if Johnny was Kylic's harshest critic at times.

"It's hard to explain me and my dad's relationship. People say I'm a momma's boy, but I'm definitely a daddy's boy," Horton said. "He's hard on me. He expects the best from me."

Horton was a natural athlete growing up, but things started to change when he prepared to make the jump to high school. He shot up in height and towered over most of his teammates, eventually growing to 6 feet and 4 inches. Suddenly a tall, lanky freshman, Horton went to Clarendon Hall thinking he was going to star on the basketball court and play in the NBA. While he's certainly been one of the top SCISA 1A basketball players throughout his career, basketball isn't the sport that's sending Horton to college next year.

That transition came thanks to Clarendon Hall head basketball and football coach Anthony Reitenour.

"Definitely with the height, my goal was to go to the NBA. Being 6'4", I played big, I played guard, but being a 6'4" guard in the NBA, I had some things to work on if that's what I wanted to do," Horton said. "Coach Ant told me I could go to the league and be a receiver, so I just stuck with it. I trusted him."

Reitenour is the top reason Horton is even at Clarendon Hall. He and Johnny Horton went to school together, and Johnny wanted his son to play for his old friend when Reitenour came to Clarendon Hall. The Saints head coach didn't care that Horton's football career to that point consisted of playing quarterback, not wide receiver. He saw the potential and convinced Horton to change positions.

"Once I came to Clarendon Hall, I shot up in growth and coach Ant said I could be a great receiver," Horton recalls. "I was like, 'nah, football ain't my thing.' I just started working on it and I got better at receiver. I wanted to play quarterback, but Ant thought I could go further with receiver."

Horton has certainly gone far already. As a junior, Horton caught 41 passes for 898 yards and 18 touchdowns, while rushing for 104 yards. He returned four kickoffs for touchdowns and had two defensive scores, bringing an interception and a fumble back to the house. He finished his junior season with a total of 26 touchdowns in just nine games.

That spectacular season wasn't quite enough to get his name out there in recruiting circles, largely because its difficult to draw the eyes out scouts as an 8-man football player. Everything changed when Horton went to a camp at South Carolina June 3-4. He dazzled the USC coaches with a 4.4 40-yard dash and vertical leap of 39 inches. He was offered a scholarship on the spot.

"I honestly didn't think I would get that offer, but it was worth a shot," Horton said of his time at South Carolina.

Horton said the Gamecock coaches were particularly impressed by his leaping ability. So much so that they made him jump three times when all of the other prospects just jumped twice.

Not bad for a kid that came in with little practice in the specifics of the skill tests he ran at USC.

"I hadn't done any of that stuff. I got to do the 40-yard dash with no technique, I didn't know how to run the 40-yard dash or anything. I just got out there and ran," Horton said. "I just sat back and watched how people were doing these things. I was listening to the coaches tell them how or the techniques they should use and I put it in motion and exploded."

Horton didn't accept the offer from USC right away, he wanted to see what else was out there. He eventually went to camps at Virginia Tech and Coastal Carolina, while getting calls from coaches across the country. After weighing his options, he felt like he had to stick with the school in his backyard. It also helped that he grew up with a father that loved the school too.

"My dad is a big Gamecock fan, so I would just do whatever my dad did. I grew up watching them," Horton said. "It was quite hard (not to accept the offer immediately), because once I got in there and saw the place, I thought it was nice. Not only that, but (head) coach (Shane) Beamer and (wide receivers) coach (Justin) Step, they loved me as soon as I got there."

Accepting that offer came with a hard reality. Horton was going to have to put away his dreams of NBA stardom to play college football.

"It was hard. Actually, before last summer started, my dad and I had a falling out about it," Horton said. "Once I got the offer from USC, he was like, 'You don't have any basketball offers, look at what you have.' It took me a while to realize football was going to be the way. Sometimes you have to change what you do.

"I sat there and told him all the talent I have in basketball was going to waste. He told me, 'Don't look at it like that, look at it as your opportunity to make it.' I told him growing up that I wanted to make it pro in whatever sport it is, and he said this was my opportunity."

Horton's family has always driven what he does. He decided to play football in the first place because coach Reitenour told him it would give him the best chance to succeed. Now he had to follow through.

"It's just my family. They kept telling me, 'You could be the way out,'" Horton said. "What inspires me is that none of my family members actually went to college and played sports, so I could be the first one to do it. That's my motivation, my mom, my dad and my family."

Luckily, Horton doesn't have to put basketball away quite yet. The coaches at South Carolina wanted Horton to enroll early, but he couldn't miss his senior season of basketball.

"They wanted me to enroll early. They weren't going to force me to enroll early and I just got the sense that it's my last year of high school and I love basketball, so I'm going to do basketball," Horton said. "It means a lot knowing that this could be the last time I play basketball. It gets emotional. I know once I get to my final game it's going to be heart-crushing."

Because he's staying for the second semester of his senior year, Horton will also be able to close the book on the sport that started his athletic career.

"I'm definitely going to play baseball one more time too," Horton said. "I feel like we can win it all in baseball."

To say Horton is excited for his final year at Clarendon Hall would be an understatement. Everyone at the school is looking forward to seeing what Horton will do.

"I'm jacked," Horton said. "All the people and all the fans coming at me at one time. I've got to stay humble and stay calm, but I'm exploding on the inside."

Despite all the hype, Horton still says his priority is helping his teammates improve alongside him. He takes a lot of pride in the fact that he's a shining example for athletes at Clarendon Hall

"This year, I just want to make my teammates better in each sport because I just want somebody to say, 'Kylic helped me out,'" Horton said. "Since I got here, I always felt like this was a family, like everybody is one. I just love the people here. Everybody shows me love, everybody shows me support. That gives me the motivation."