Evan Horn

UNH’s Evan Horn takes a breather during a game in 2019.

ALTHOUGH he’s been used primarily on defense during his time at the University of New Hampshire, you could say safety Evan Horn recently ran a reverse.

Horn entered the NCAA transfer portal in December, but earlier this month announced that he would be back at UNH for his final season of eligibility. He returned to campus last week.

“As I told everybody I’m not much of a transfer portal guy in terms of I didn’t really want to do it,” Horn said. “I just wanted to see what was out there. Now I’m back.

“Nothing came up that I was interested in. I told Coach Mac (UNH head coach Sean McDonnell) from the start that the only way I go through with this is if I find that perfect situation. I only have one year of football left, so it’s not like I could go into a program and develop myself.”

Although Horn said he was intrigued by the possibility of finishing his college career with an FBS program, his decision to enter the transfer portal seemed to be as much about academics as it was athletics.

He had one season of eligibility remaining when he graduated from UNH last May. At that point he planned to take some undergraduate courses during the fall semester, which would keep him eligible for the 2020 season. Then the COVID-19 situation forced the postponement of the fall season and pushed it to this spring. That’s when Horn, who hails from Lebanon, Pa., began to think about pursuing a master’s degree.

“Taking undergraduate classes for a semester … it wouldn’t be bad, but for a full year I’d kinda be wasting my time academically,” he said. “When I found out about the (NCAA) waiver and this year wouldn’t count toward anything, I thought ‘All right, well now I can play football this spring and in the fall, so it’s a full year.’ I thought to myself if I’m gonna be in school that long I’m gonna try and get my masters if I can. I called Coach Mac to see if I could enter a masters program in business or something like that at the start of the (winter) semester. Unfortunately none of the business programs allowed me to enter mid-year.”

At that point, Horn said, transferring to another school became an attractive option. He received lukewarm interest, however. Then a door opened that made it much easier for him to return to UNH.

“Obviously that (the transfer portal) didn’t work, so I called Coach Mac at the end of December and said, ‘Coach, things aren’t looking like there’s much going on. Can you check in on any other (master’s) programs (at UNH) that might be somewhat business-related?’ He called around and there’s a sports studies masters program that allows mid-year entries, so I’m doing that now. It’ll start this semester, go through the summer and finish in the fall. It worked out in a way I can get a masters. That’s the rundown.”

It also worked out in a way that will keep Horn in a UNH uniform not only for the spring season, which starts March 5, but for the “normal” 2021 fall season as well.

Horn, 22, was a Second-Team all-Colonial Athletic Association selection last season, when he led the team in tackles (70) and interceptions (four). He has 10 career interceptions and has returned four of them for touchdowns.

In addition to playing safety, UNH has used him to return punts and as a long snapper.

Horn’s return was undoubtedly welcomed in the UNH football office, since the Wildcats lost starting safety Pop Lacey, plus starting cornerbacks Isiah Perkins and Prince Smith Jr. to graduation.

Like most UNH players, Horn hasn’t put on shoulder pads since the Wildcats beat rival Maine in the final game of the 2019 season.

“I’m hoping the spring season goes as planned,” he said. “It’s weird, but it’s a chance to play games — a chance to play against somebody else other than your teammates. We’re just embracing the opportunity to play.”

Horn stressed that McDonnell was supportive throughout the process. He said he knows other players who entered the transfer portal who weren’t welcomed back to their original school.

“It was one of the tougher decisions I’ve ever made,” Horn explained. “Like I said, I’m not that big of a transfer guy. My parents always told me, ‘You finish what you start.’ I wanted to finish what I started, but reality hit. It was tough too, with Coach Mac coming back (after a year away for health reasons). I have the utmost respect for him, so that made it tough, but sometimes you have to do what’s best for you.

“I thought my resume was pretty good that I could try to play at a higher level. That’s everyone’s dream — to play at the highest level. The big thing for me is I just wanted to see what else was out there. If there was a better situation for me I would have done it, but things didn’t work out. At the end of the day I’m coming back to New Hampshire, which is not a bad thing at all, so it works out.”