DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The NFL draft journey of Jacksonville University defensive lineman Justin Horton took a turn early in the process.
The 6-foot-1, 240-pound defender was asked to play linebacker - a position he rarely played in college - during this weekend's Tropical Bowl in Daytona Beach.
He was willing to take on the challenge, because it was just another opportunity to show what he can do.
"Football is football," Horton said. "You've got to attack it with a positive attitude. It's different, but at the end of the day, if you focus on what's being taught - they're not out here to really teach - they're going to show you a couple of things and you listen attentively and just make sure you get it down and study. It'll come."
The Clermont, Fla. native grew up with current Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Andy Jones. The two played together at JU and Horton watched Jones go through the process last season.
Jones created plenty of buzz for himself throughout the process and was able to sign with the Cowboys on a priority undrafted free agent deal. He stood out enough during training camp to make the Dallas practice squad and he has honed his skills while working with Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams and the other Cowboys receivers.
Having gone through the draft journey before, Jones has been able to offer Horton advice.
"He always gives me advice," Horton said. "Take it one step at a time. Whatever hill I've got to climb, attack it 100-percent. Now it's the bowl games, soon it'll be pro day, other days it might be visits or whatever. It's a long, grueling process and to watch him become successful, he's still working to become successful in his own eyes. He just says to take it slow and one step at a time."
Horton has the hope that playing in the Tropical Bowl will expose him to NFL decision-makers. The NFL was in full force during practices this week, as teams like the New York Jets, Chicago Bears, Jacksonville Jaguars, Philadelphia Eagles, San Diego Chargers and Cleveland Browns were well-represented in Daytona Beach.
"[I want] exposure, because I come from JU," Horton said. "It's a big deal to me but a lot of guys across the country, a lot of scouts, they don't know who we are. For me to come out here and do well and showcase what I have, it will go a long way to seeing where I end up come summer time."
Horton, like Jones before him, would like to be the first JU Dolphin to be drafted into the NFL. He knows the accomplishment would be huge for him and the program.
"I'd be hyped," Horton said. "I'd be hyped, I'd love it. To go out and represent JU and make a little bit of history."
Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.
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