Evan Horn is UNH's man of many talentsBy MICHAEL ABELSON
Special to the Union Leader
January 14. 2018 2:14AM
Evan Horn plays for the University of New Hampshire football team. He plays both safety positions. He plays linebacker. He returns punts. He snaps punts.
As of the start of 2018, Evan Horn plays for the New Hampshire men's basketball team. He's a point guard. He's a defensive stopper.
He plays both sports and plays them well. A four-year starter in both sports in high school, as well as an accomplished javelin thrower, Horn's success on the field and court doesn't surprise the powers that be in Durham. They knew he was that good of an athlete.
"He had a bunch of different options, but we were fortunate to get him," UNH football coach Sean McDonnell said. "Part of the recruiting process I felt it was important for him to know we would give him an opportunity to play both if he wanted to. I think in his first year he was trying to settle in here. I think he really missed basketball. I know he did."
After redshirting in football last season Horn blossomed into a stalwart on the defensive side of the ball for the Wildcats. Horn had 43 tackles this season and three interceptions, including one he returned 56 yards for a touchdown against Central Arkansas in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
But the itch persisted to get back on the court, and Horn's basketball skills were just about equal to his talents on the gridiron. For most high school athletes, getting a scholarship offer from a Division I school is the ultimate goal. While Horn got multiple offers from other Division I football programs such as Villanova and Temple, he also got Division I offers in basketball from Navy and Holy Cross.
"His foot quickness in basketball definitely helped him play defensive back on the football field," said Tom Smith, Horn's basketball coach at Cedar Crest High in Lebanon, Pa. "His physical and mental toughness that he learned playing football carried over to the basketball court, and the competitive nature of track and field, which is such a one-on-one sport, all really helped develop Evan into the athlete he is today."
Smith, and then Horn, reached out to basketball coach Bill Herrion in the fall about doing both and after conferring with McDonnell, the dream became a reality.
"I always loved basketball, but I never had the offer that I wanted to for basketball so I came here for football," Horn said. "Over time I said 'Why don't I give it a try' I don't want to look back on it 10, 15 years from now and say 'What would have happened?' I didn't want to look back on it with regret, so I gave it a try."
Having not played a basketball game in two years didn't hurt Horn as he contributed meaningful minutes in the Wildcats' wins over Albany and Binghamton this past week. He was tasked with guarding Albany's David Nichols, a first-team all conference player last year, on the game's final possession in a one-point game. Albany couldn't get a shot off and Horn scooped up a loose ball and dribbled out the last few seconds to secure the win.
He scored seven points against Binghamton on Wednesday.
With injuries plaguing UNH's backcourt, Horn's arrival has been a much-needed lift.
"He's obviously a very good athlete," Herrion said after the Binghamton game. "I think he's been pushed into action because of the injury situation. But he's given us, in these two wins, valuable minutes."
Tanner Leissner, a senior captain on the team, said that Horn's addition gave the squad a new dynamic and another asset on both ends of the floor as they head into the grind of America East play.
"I think it's huge because at first coach came to us and asked if we were OK if a new player (joined the team)," Leissner said Wednesday. "We were like 'Sure.' He came and we didn't know what to expect, but he's come in right away and helped us to two big wins. He brings something different to our team, and it's something that's helped us."
Back home in Lebanon, a city of 25,000 people about 90 miles west of Philadelphia, Horn's legacy endures. Horn's teams won 88 games on the hardwood and, according to Smith, every kid in the town's football league wants to wear 33 just like Horn, and just like Horn still wears for the UNH football team. His basketball number is 14.
"The person that he is just really was a cornerstone of the community and every little kid growing up in this area wants to be Evan Horn," Smith said. "He's such a great kid, great person. My two kids just love him dearly. What a great role model for this community to have looked up to for four straight years. He really set the tone for Cedar Crest athletics and really the community in Lebanon by the type of person that he is."