Parkinson’s doesn’t stop former NCSU Pack assistant coach Horton, from teaching life and football

We have been married for 20 years.  United in our goals of raising a compassionate family who is making a difference, not only on a football field.  We just happen to believe, people with disabilities can do amazing things!
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Don Horton has coached 15 offensive linemen who have played in the NFL. He was once named by ESPN.com as one of the two best offensive line coaches in the United States. He gained national prominence as a longtime assistant to former N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien.

Now he is an assistant coach at Ravenscroft School.

And he loves it.

“I got into coaching because I wanted to have an impact on young men,” Horton said recently, before going out into the rain for a Ravens practice. “I hope these guys that I’m coaching now will be better men because we worked together.”

Horton has Parkinson’s disease. He has had the chronic and progressive movement disorder for about seven years. Boxer Muhammad Ali and actor Michael J. Fox have Parkinson’s, which can cause trembling hands, uncontrollable tics, stiffness, unsteadiness in walking among other things. Symptoms can worsen over time. There is no cure, and the cause of the disorder is unknown.

The disease has affected Horton’s speech and his movement. Former N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson once needed to help him button his shirt after a game.

But Parkinson’s has not affected his desire to help young people.

Mike Fagan, a 6-foot-2, 320-pound tackle at Ravenscroft, said he is a better person because of Horton.

“First thing, he is a remarkable coach,” Fagan said. “He has so much knowledge. Learning from him has been immensely profitable.

“And to know what he is going through and how he is handling it is inspiring. No matter what obstacles you come up against, you shouldn’t ever give up.”

Horton, who has coached for 34 years, can still motivate players.

Don Horton - Ravenscroft

“Oh yeah, when he wants you to hear something in practice he gets his point across,” Fagan said. “He can get pretty emotional.”

“It’s tougher in high school to have an impact because you don’t have the time,” said Horton, 55. “You don’t meet and watch film together like you do in college. But you’re still trying to do the same thing – teach them the basics, the techniques – and trying to have an impact on their life.”

Coaching at Ravenscroft has given him the opportunity to continue doing what he has wanted to do essentially his entire life. He resigned from coaching in 2012 but continued working in football operations at State until this spring when he said he was fired less than a month after brain surgery.

“Don always has wanted to be coaching kids,” said Maura Horton, his wife of 20 years. “I admire that. He found what he wanted to do and pursued that. He hasn’t changed.”

He moves more slowly now. Some physical changes seem to happen overnight. Other changes have been so gradual that he didn’t realize they were happening until he noticed a major change.

The incident with the shirt button inspired Maura Horton to develop clothing that can fasten using magnets, an example of how the family has worked to adapt to Horton’s condition.

“I take umbrage at the term resilience,” Maura Horton said. “The lives of our children (daughters who are 10 and 6) have been changed forever because of Parkinson’s. The lives of our children have changed for the better because they have seen how their father has faced this.”

Toughness

Horton wants to keep coaching football, a sport he considers the last bastion of toughness.

“You get knocked down, you get up,” he said. “You lose, but you don’t quit trying. You push yourself farther than you want to go, but you keep going. Football teaches toughness, physically and mentally.”

Horton was excited when Ravenscroft coach Ned Gonet offered him a job because he believes he still has things to offer young men.

“I hope he’ll have me back next year,” Horton said.

No worries there, Gonet said.

“We are honored to have such a man be associated with our program,” Gonet said. “Not only does he do a tremendous job with the kids, he has been great for our coaching staff.”

Horton started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at New Mexico State, Ohio State and Virginia before he got his first head coaching job in 1977 at Norfolk (Va.) Catholic. He led a program that had scored 18 points the previous season to a 4-6 record. He is still in touch with some of the players there.

Joe Sparksman, a Department of Corrections probation parole officer in Raleigh who was a runner and linebacker at Norfolk Catholic, said Horton inspired him years ago and inspires him today.

“He has been tough,” Sparksman said. “Just watching him handle everything thrown at him has been an inspiration. He was tough as a coach, but he was a coach who stressed that I was a student as well as an athlete. There was never any question that he wanted what was best for me.”

Wittenberg University, Horton’s alma mater, offered him a job as an assistant in 1978 and he remained in college coaching until arriving at Ravenscroft.

Horton said there has been little adjustment to teaching high school players after working for years with much bigger and stronger college players.

“It’s relative,” he said. “In college, those 6-5, 280 guys play against other 6-5, 280 guys. High school players, 6-3, 230, play against high school players about the same size. Most of the college players know they aren’t going to play beyond their senior year and so do the high school players. It’s about the same.”

And the lessons taught through athletics are the same, too.

Horton and his wife were talking about that just the other day.

Life is not always fair, but you have to keep getting up.

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Game Changer – American Express Open Forum

A huge pause as I read a note from a players parent this morning.

“Coach Horton originally recruited Clif  for his O-Line scholarship at Boston College. Thanks Coach! You changed my son’s life. We are praying for you.”

Then I read and re-read again.   “You changed my son’s life.”

Some in athletics (and the greater world of life) think that because Don has Parkinson’s (or someone has a disability) it diminishes his (or their) abilities, passion and effectiveness on and off the field (job).  I will always take umbrage to that.  In every locker-room that I have ever stood in, there are signs of perseverance and motivation.  Don (and all who have disabilities) is a living day example of those true testaments.

Overlooking someone because they have a disability is the lowest display of power.

Overlooking someone because they have a disability is the lowest display of power.

MagnaReady was selected as a American Express Open Forum – Game Changer.  We help people improve their daily living experience BUT I am lucky and proud to share with my children that their father, Don Horton, changed lives.

Game Changer -by Carla Turchetti

Game Changer
-by Carla Turchetti

Website: www.MagnaReady.com

What She Does: Horton has designed and brought to market a line of men’s dress shirts that have magnets infused into the buttons. This makes it easier for those with diseases, disabilities or injuries to dress themselves in professional wear. “We are a company with innovative solutions for limited mobility apparel,” Horton says.

How She Started: Horton’s journey to create her first shirt was a very personal one. Her husband, Don, a former football coach for North Carolina State University, has Parkinson’s Disease. After one game, he was in the locker room and had difficulty buttoning his shirt—one of his players, Russell Willson, now a quarterback with the Seattle Seahawks, had to button it for him.

“He was embarrassed,” Horton says. “There aren’t many things with Parkinson’s that I can help him with, but this is one challenge I decided to take on.”

Why She’s a Game Changer: After hearing about that locker room incident, Horton ordered other shirts to see if she could find something that worked for her husband.

“They just didn’t meet my standards,” Horton says. And after carefully looking over the available options, mostly with hook and loop closures, Horton called on her background in design to create something she would like better.

“I had always been interested in design and I noticed that the tech world was turning to magnets,” Horton says. Inspired by tablet covers and purses with magnetic closures, she created a dress shirt with magnets as well. She had to find the perfect magnetic strength that made it easy enough to open and close but strong enough to keep the shirt fastened.

What’s Next: Thanks to the success of MagnaReady shirts, the company is about to add more products this summer.

“The outcry for women’s apparel is huge and we are about to launch that,” Horton says. “We have secured the patent rights for hospital patient gowns and we are going to debut children’s coats.”

RELATED: Game Changer: Creating a More Life-Like Prosthetic Foot

The idea for the children’s coats was also born of Horton’s family experiences. After struggles bundling up toddlers for blustery Northeastern winter days, she wanted to simply design something to make life easier.

Advice for Other Entrepreneurs: “Mentoring has been huge to me,” Horton says. After stepping away from the design world to raise her children and then diving back in with the launch of MagnaReady, Horton says she relied on advice from other professionals across other industries. “It’s good to be able to run things by other people,” Horton says.

And she has one other piece of advice: Don’t ever give up.”

Meet more ambitious entrepreneurs in our Game Changers series.

 

Link

Don Horton Steps Down

NC State tight ends coach Don Horton will no longer coach, but will remain on the Wolfpack staff as the assistant director of football operations, the school announced on Thursday.

“It is with great excitement that I approach the next step in my professional career in athletic administration,” Horton said in a prepared statement. “Coach [Tom] O’Brien and NC State athletics have offered my family and me a great opportunity to become involved in the administration and I am extremely grateful. I would like to thank all those who have made this next step possible.”

“I am thrilled to have Coach Horton continue in his career here at NC State,” O’Brien stated. “As a member of our staff for the past 15 years, he has been more than an excellent football coach. He has also has done a tremendous job developing young men and setting high standards when it comes to hard work and how to do things the right way. In his new role, he will continue to benefit everyone associated with this football program, and we are as excited about this opportunity as he is.”

Horton began coaching at Ohio State in 1982 as a graduate assistant. He made coaching stops at nine other schools and made the trip to NC State with O’Brien in 2007. He has mentored more than 15 NFL players and has coached in 12 college bowl games.