2. Joe Horn (2000-2006)
Everybody remembers Joe Horn, either for his stellar play or for his infamous cell-phone touchdown celebration. But few remember the unconventional path he took to the NFL.
After two seasons at Itawamba Community College, Horn didn’t qualify for Division I football. Instead he spent two years away from the game, working regular jobs. He would later stumble across a Jerry Rice instructional video and make the investment of a lifetime.
As Horn recounts, “I had like $2-$3 dollars left to my name. I was in a Blockbuster and saw Jerry’s video for $3.00 so I decided right then and there to invest in my future and learn from the best receiver in the history of the NFL. This is when I was also working at a Bojangles Chicken.”
Horn recorded a workout tape and sent it to teams everywhere.
The CFL’s Memphis Mad Dogs offered him a contract and he ended up playing for one season before the team folded in 1995.
Legally his two year contract voided at that point and he was free to enter the NFL draft, riding the momentum of a hugely successful CFL rookie year.
The Calgary Stampeders tried to draft Horn again, but he was so set on the NFL that his agent threatened legal action if he was taken. Horn’s name was taken off the board.
He finally made it to the NFL in 1996 when he was selected by Kansas City in the 5th round. After a few nondescript seasons stuck playing behind Tony Gonzalez and Derrick Alexander, he joined the Saints in 2000.
That ignited a record-setting seven year run for Joe Horn.
He earned a Pro Bowl invitation in his first season with New Orleans — the first of three consecutive trips for him. He compiled almost 4000 yards in those first 3 years with the team.
His best season came in 2004 when he went for 1399 yards and 11 touchdowns, both of which still stand as franchise bests in a single season for a WR (Marques Colston also had 11 touchdowns in 2007).
Joe Horn owns 4 of the top 5 single season receiving yardage totals in New Orleans. He has the most 100-yard games in Saints history (27). He was selected to the Pro Bowl in 4 out of his 7 seasons with the team.
At the time of his retirement, he was 2nd overall for Saints career receptions and yards, and had the most career receiving touchdowns in team history.
Joe Horn was brash. He played with an attitude, but he had the skills to back it up. Athletically, he could run with the best of them. Mentally, he knew the importance of getting under the skin of his opponent.
But the strength of his game was his size and his speed.
He was tremendously fast for his 6’1″ 211lb frame, and if he was given an inch he would take it a mile. Needless to say, every time he caught a long bomb he’d make sure his cover-man knew about it.
You could make an argument that the Saints first ever playoff win in 2000 was a pretty special moment. Or the re-opening of the Superdome in ’06. But I mean… come on. Are we really gonna pretend that Horn’s career has’t been defined by his cell-phone touchdown celebration?
In an era shared by the likes of Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson, even this stood out. Horn was fined $30,000 for the incident, but was glad to have expressed his opposition to the NFL’s recent crackdown on celebrations.
Interestingly, fellow teammate Donte Stallworth intimated in an interview last year that Horn had actually planned the celebration weeks in advance;
“…I remember literally that cell phone was on the field under the goal post for like six or seven straight weeks, and he never scored a touchdown in that end zone until we played the Giants…”
What is sometimes glossed over in this game is the fact that Horn actually had one of the greatest receiving games in Saints history, catching 9 passes for 133 yards and 4 touchdowns.