Horn is one of 12 individuals in the Class of 2017 being inducted into the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame banquet will be Monday, March 20, at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center.
A native of Ashland, Daniel Lowell Horn graduated from Clay County High School in 1980 and Jacksonville State University in 1984. He also holds a master’s degree from Jacksonville State.
He started his teaching and coaching career at Randolph County High School, serving as head basketball coach and defensive coordinator in football. His basketball record was 65-29 and his honors included County Coach of the Year. He also coached baseball and guided his team to the state playoffs in 1988.
In 1989 he returned to his alma mater, Clay County High School, as head coach in football, girls’ basketball and baseball. While he was a credit to every sport he coached, it was in football that he earned a status as one of the state’s all-time top coaches.
Over 20 years at Clay County he produced an overall record of 225-40 – an amazing 85% winning rate. His teams reached the state football finals eight times resulting in six state championships and two runners-up; four other teams reached the state playoff semifinals; 14 won area/region championships; 19 of his 20 teams reached the state playoffs; and from 1994-97, his teams won an AHSAA state-record 55 games win a row.
That streak results in three consecutive state championships. His 1994 team lost its season opener 3-0 to Cleburne County and then reeled off 14 straight wins and allowed only two touchdowns to win the school’s first state title. The Panthers outscored opponents 408-22 and began a streak that resulted in 10 shutouts in ’94, nine in 1995, 11 in 1996 and four in 1997. It took a 21-14 overtime loss in the playoffs to finally end the streak.
His 1996 squad opened the season with seven consecutive shutouts on the way to a 15-0 season and state-record 11 shutouts. That team outscored opponents 613-42 and allowing only three touchdowns in the regular season. From 1994-97 Clay County outscored opponents 1,974 to 194 – allowing an average of 3.4 points per game while shutting out 34 opponents while going 55-2.
In 2009 he moved to Benjamin Russell High School. His eight-year record in Alexander City is 55-30 with four seasons with 10 or more wins. Five teams have been in the playoffs. The 2015 squad advanced to the semifinals, losing to eventual champion Spanish Fort by just four points.
Horn’s overall record in 28 seasons is 280-79. He is eighth on the AHSAA all-time football wins list second in playoff wins owns a 61-19 playoff record over 25 appearances with six state championships. He and Hoover’s Josh Niblett are the only head coaches in AHSAA history to win six state titles.
Former coach Jerry Weems, a 2011 Hall of Fame inductee, served as Horn’s defensive coordinator at Clay County.
“As a longtime member of the Alabama High School Athletic Association, Mr. Horn has distinguished himself in many way ways,” Weems said. “Not only has he received many personal honors and awards, but also he has brought distinction and integrity to the schools and communities in which he has coached, particularly while at Clay County High School. More importantly than [his] records, his teams always performed with the class and sportsmanship that is desired and coveted by the AHSAA.
“Even though Coach Horn now coaches at Benjamin Russell High School, his influence and impact on Clay County High School and the City of Ashland will be felt for many years to come. Not only did he achieve significant recognition in football, he also started the girls’ high school basketball program at Clay County and led the baseball team to several playoff appearances.
“Coach Horn’s impact is also seen in the number of former players he coached that have entered into the coaching ranks. These (individuals) are scattered throughout all parts of Alabama and each would tell you that he had a definite impact on the direction of their careers.”
Weems, who coached Clay County to back-to-back state basketball championship in 1991 and 1992, said Horn also had a major impact on his coaching career.
“I had the honor to work and coach with him throughout all of his years at Clay County,” he said. “The integrity he demonstrated with his work ethic has been one of the strongest influences during the years I have served in the education field.”
Another Hall of Fame inductee, Ron Watters (2010), gave Horn his first coaching job at Randolph County. He saw something special in Horn from the get-go.
“The most important thing I can say about Danny is his impeccable character,” Watters said. “He is a devoted husband and father. His Christian influence at home and school speaks for itself. He began his coaching career with me at Randolph County High School in 1984, quickly distinguishing himself as an outstanding teacher, coach and leader.”
Steve Giddens was Horn’s high school classmate. He later became his coaching adversary at arch-rival Lineville before becoming principal at Clay County Central when the two neighboring schools merged into one. The Lineville-Clay County rivalry was judged by USA Today in the 1990s as one of the nation’s Top 10 high school football rivalries. The two schools met in the Class 2A state finals in 1996 – the first year of the then Super 6 State Championships at Birmingham’s Legion Field.
“I have known Dan for 48 years,” Giddens said. “We grew up together in Ashland and his passion for sports was evident even then. His leadership abilities made everyone around him better. He was and still is an extremely hard worker. This rubs off on those around him. He expects excellence out of himself and those around him. No shortcuts to success.
“One trait that I admire about Dan the most is his loyalty to the people he loves and represents. For all the years I coached against him, we never allowed that to compromise our relationship. He was always willing to help me be successful. I saw that with all the people in his life. He is a dedicated family man and with Debbie, they have raised three outstanding children who make this world a better place.
“Dan realizes that coaching is more than winning ball games. He teaches his players how to win at life. This is a true Hall of Famer. Dan is a winner on the field but more importantly, he is a winner in life.”
He was selected to coach in the AHSAA North-South All-Star game in 2007 and has also coached in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game.
Thursday: Eighth installment of the Hall of Fame series: Decatur coach & administrator Lorenzo Jackson.