Jaycee Horn, Israel Mukuamu talk decision to opt out during 2020 season
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Horn, Mukuamu talk decision to opt out during 2020 season

Jaycee Horn knows the questions are coming.

Every time he sits down with teams before the NFL Draft, he knows someone on the call will have to ask him about opting out with three games left to go in the season and forgoing the final three games of his South Carolina career.

And for Horn, he thinks honesty is the best policy.

Photo by Montez Aiken
Photo by Montez Aiken

“I give them the straight up answer. Going into Ole Miss week, my mom and grandparents are from Mississippi. My mom and my two younger siblings went down a couple weeks early. My two younger siblings caught COVID, my grandparents got it and my aunt, who is considered high risk got it, and ultimately she passed,” he said Tuesday.

“That was the main reason I opted out: getting a chance to spend time with them, with my aunt especially, before I went out for training. After the season with training you don’t get any time to chill with your family. After I heard the news about my aunt I wanted to spend time with my family before moving on to the next stage of my life.”

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Horn’s opting out did coincide with South Carolina firing Will Muschamp, but Horn didn’t mention that as a reason why he chose to not play the final three games of the season, all losses.

His focus, he says, was on spending more time with his family before going off to begin training for the NFL Draft, where he’s projected as a first round pick.

“I can tell you now, if I went back I’d do it again. I put my family before anything. I feel like my teammates and my coaches know how much I love the game of football,” Horn said. “That’s the one time I put my family before the game and if I could go back I’d do it again.”

When he did it, though, it was met with a lot of backlash from South Carolina fans—even leading to a few heated exchanges on social media—in what Horn calls one of the more mentally challenging times in his life.

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“It was extremely tough. I’m a real headstrong guy. Don’t too much shake me. I can deal with the entire backlash from fans when we lose and stuff like that. When I opted that, it was tough them calling me a quitter, questioning my integrity. Losing my aunt at the same time, it’s frustrating and had me mad,” Horn said.

“There was a little Twitter war just cause I was emotional because I feel like no human should act like that to another human being without knowing the whole story. I just lost my aunt and you’re over here talking about football. It was frustrating. I fought through it, and I’m in a better place now. I can’t wait to get back on the field.”

Israel Mukuamu, who opted out around the same time to focus on getting his health right and begin training for the NFL draft as well, joined Horn.

Mukuamu also met with reporters Tuesday and said that was a question NFL teams asked him and he mentions wanting to get healthy before pro day, which is Wednesday for the Gamecocks.

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“I originally strained my groin that game and had been battling with it ever since. I re-injured it in the Vanderbilt game, sat out the Auburn game and came back and played the LSU game and Texas A&M game. I re-injured it the Ole Miss game,” Mukuamu said.

“Throughout the whole season I wasn’t 100 percent anyways and I kept trying to go out there and force my leg. After I got the MRI for the Ole Miss game they said I wasn’t going to be able to come back early enough anyway so I decided to opt out and heal my leg to 100 percent.”