Anyone who saw Brownwood’s Ethan Horton play can tell you he was a force to be reckoned with on the football field. The standout linebacker became a crucial part of the successful 2011 and 2012 football teams that were led by former head coach Bob Shipley.
As a junior and senior for the Lions, Horton’s play helped him rack up awards and accolades, while helping Brownwood become one of the best defensive units in the state, regardless of classification.
His production on the football field caught the attention of colleges around the nation, including many Division I universities from major conferences such as the Big XII and the SEC.
“Programs like Oklahoma State, Missouri, TCU, Texas Tech and Texas State were all showing me a lot of attention,” said Horton. “Of course there were some others too. I was taking visits and getting invited to functions at all of these places. Recruiting was really taking off for me and, at the time, it seemed like the offers were getting ready to roll in.”
After a very successful junior campaign that produced impressive stats, schools had taken notice and were all getting ready to extend offers to him. His size and speed combination, along with his ability to play any of the three linebacker spots, were intriguing to many coaches.
It seemed to be a no brainer that Horton would have more than his fair share of schools to choose from when it was all said and done.
That all changed in a blink of an eye.
Horton suffered an injury to his right arm, which caused it to break. Due to the severity of it, the break required surgery. Usually a broken arm wouldn’t be too much of a game changer. After all, it’s not that bad of an injury and it’s one that heals rather quickly.
The injury itself wasn’t necessarily the problem for the various programs looking at Horton. The problem was the number of previous surgeries already performed on the arm, along with the fact that another one had to be done in the near future.
“It changed everything for me,” Horton said. “All of those programs backed off of me. I actually had one program tell me they wouldn’t be offering me now because they felt I was a liability. Most of them just basically dropped me.”
Horton went from being one of the hottest uncommitted prospects in Central Texas to being an afterthought. It sounds horrible, and it is, but that’s college football recruiting. That treatment, however unfair it may be, is the standard for major schools.
Fortunately for the Brownwood product, other doors began to open. They might not be the big time doors Horton had grown accustomed to, but at this point he was happy to hear from anyone who still would offer the chance to play football at the next level.
“After all of that happened Tarleton came in and offered me,” Horton said. “I had other small schools like that show a lot of interest as well. Shortly after they offered, I went ahead and committed. I was doing well and saw playing time from the start.”
Unfortunately bad luck reared its ugly head once again.
Horton suffered another major setback in the form of another injury. While it wasn’t his arm this time, it was something even worse that would hold him out for much longer.
“I ended up breaking my foot,” said Horton. “Since I had only played in two games, the NCAA said I qualified for a medical redshirt, which I did.”
Both Horton and Tarleton weren’t sure exactly how this would all play out. Uncertainty seemed to be the name of the game once more.
The good news was that the situation opened a couple of more doors for the injury-plagued defender.
Blinn Junior College, located in Brenham, let Horton know that it had the luxury of being able to make room for Horton and, more importantly, had time to let the situation work itself out.
Horton jumped at the opportunity, thinking it would allow him to continue to pursue playing football, and it did just that. Horton immediately fell back into place, not ing a beat, once he was healthy enough to take part in team activities. Within a few weeks his hard work and determination paid off and he was a part of the starting lineup.
Everything seemed to be going about as well as it possibly could. For the most part, Horton had zero complaints. He was back in the action with football and he felt some excitement due to the fact that Blinn has quite the reputation for getting guys back to the center stage of college football and even into the NFL. You can look no further than players such as Cam Newton, DeDe Westbrook, Bernard Scott, Michael Bishop and Quincy Morgan as proof of that.
Something just didn’t feel right to Horton though.
“I felt like I wasn’t sure if this is what I wanted to do,” Horton explained. “There was a lot of uncertainty at the time. I was back in the action, but in the back of my mind was the injuries and the ‘what-if’ scenarios. It did a number on me and I put a lot of thought into what exactly I wanted to do from there on out.”
Horton decided that it was probably time to move on. Numerous surgeries, broken bones and other various injuries had already done a number on him, but overall he was pretty healthy. The big question of “what happens next time you get hurt?” seemed to prevail and was one of the deciding factors in his decision to leave football.
“Looking back there’s definitely some regret,” said Horton. “At the time though, I felt like it was the best decision to make, so I left.”
He left Blinn Junior College, but didn’t move far. He had done well academically in high school, along with his stop at Tarleton and his brief stint in Brenham, so he decided to enroll at Texas A&M.
“I moved to College Station to attend Texas A&M,” Horton said. “There I majored in political science. I technically was in the Class of 2016, but I actually graduated early in the winter semester of 2015.”
The next step in his life was going to be a big one, or so he thought. Horton had plans to become a lawyer and was well on his way by this point.
“I was definitely ready to do the whole lawyer gig,” he said. “I had gone through the LSAT prep and had done very well on it. That’s what I planned to do. That’s what I thought I wanted to do.”
Once again though, life threw a curveball at him and what happened next even shocks Horton himself to this day.
“I was sitting there thinking about my life one day,” he explained. “I was thinking about the future and then it hit me. I thought to myself that I can’t do this. I realized I can’t stand a lot of those people. That’s no offense to lawyers, and I’m not saying they’re bad, but I just quickly decided that’s not how I wanted to spend the rest of my life.”
Instead he decided to pursue another passion in his life, which is music.
“My friends and I are very passionate about music, especially outlaw country and Texas country,” Horton said. “We decided we should open up a music venue that offers things most places don’t. From there it just started falling in place.”
Horton and his associates quickly got to work on the project. They came up with a name (The Backyard at Fritztown), found a location and the rest has been history.
“Our friend’s family owns some land in Fredricksburg, so we approached them about it. They supported the idea, his family kind of foot the bill on it for us. They asked me to be the manager, which surprised me. It was a risky move for sure, but I thought to myself that I’m 23 and I don’t have kids yet. I figured if I don’t do it, I’ll regret it the rest of my life. I didn’t want that, especially with sort of having the football regret at Blinn when it comes to not sticking it out.”
Horton admits that sometimes he feels like he’s over his head when it comes to the business end of things. He has a great support system though and it’s helped him make educated decisions that continue to turn out for the best.
“I found out that it’s definitely a lot more than just liking music and knowing about music,” Horton said. “It is a lot different, that’s for sure, especially with the business side of things. For a while it was like getting thrown out in the middle of the ocean. It was crazy at first and sometimes still is. Every week before I go and do something, I try to learn as much as possible about whatever it may be. It’s like a crash course. I love it though!”
The venue’s grand opening is right around the corner. They’ll actually kick it off with local acts in early April, but the main event that will get the ball rolling takes place on April 15, when they host Cody Canada (formerly of Cross Canadian Ragweed) and the Departed for an all-out bash that will start a new chapter in Horton and his friend’s lives.
“More than anything we just want it to be something real,” Horton said. “Something that feels like home and that anyone can enjoy themselves at. That’s the main goal. It’s going to be raw and emotional and something that people can connect with. It’s also going to be a whole lot of fun.
“I am so glad I’m a part of it. It makes me feel like being a part of that Brownwood Lions team. It feels like home. It feels like family.”