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National Signing Day: Sooners land rare two-sport star — unless pro baseball lures him away

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NORMAN — Posing for pictures with family and friends, Cade Horton stationed himself behind a table covered with crimson and cream paraphernalia. Helmets. Cookies. Balloons. Even the water bottles had labels with little interlocking OUs on them.

Horton is a Sooner.

That became official Wednesday as the Norman High standout signed a national letter of intent with Oklahoma. On Signing Day, commitments became binding. Decisions became final.

But in Horton's case, another decision may void this one.

Even though he is set to play baseball and football for the Sooners — his scholarship is with baseball, so he isn't listed as part of OU's top-10 football recruiting class — he has shot up the baseball draft boards in recent months. He turned heads last summer as both a shortstop and a pitcher. MLBProspect.com ranks Horton the 40th best player among all high school and college players eligible for the 2020 draft.

If Horton is drafted and given enough monetary enticements, he might never wear a uniform for the baseball or football team at OU.

Is it something he's given much thought?

"Right now, we'll see how the spring goes," Horton said Wednesday as Signing Day fun buzzed around him inside the Norman High gym. "We'll play it by ear.

"The draft is really ..."

He paused and thought a moment.

"It's tricky," he said finally, "so we'll just have to see when the time comes."

Oklahomans have seen how tough the football-or-baseball decision can be. Kyler Murray wrestled with it last year after getting picked 10th in the baseball draft, then winning the Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma.

Murray eventually picked football, a decision that seems to be turning out well.

But Horton may have to pick before his college career even starts.

Long seen as a promising prospect at shortstop, Horton surprised many with his pitching this summer. The right-hander throws his fastball between 91 and 94 mph, peaking at 96 mph, and he has an advanced change-up and a solid slider.

Scouts now prefer him as a pitcher. And they do so even though they know Horton is fielding and hitting, too, so he isn't entirely focused on pitching.

Truth be told, he isn't even entirely focused on baseball.

Still, baseball types are salivating over the 6-foot-2, 190-pound prospect. They may well draft him high in June. May well offer a big signing bonus. Who knows what Horton will do if there are millions of dollars on the table

But know this, Horton really loves football.

Not that he doesn't really love baseball. He was committed to play baseball at Ole Miss, one of the top programs in the country, but when OU came in with a two-sport offer, Horton switched his commitment in January.

"It was just an opportunity I couldn't turn down," he said. "Everybody sees me as baseball, but I'm looking to prove myself on the football field as well."

Those who know Horton best say when he sets his mind, he's rarely denied.

Cody Merrell coached Horton in middle school, and one year, Horton broke his hand. Needed a cast and everything. But he wanted to play. So he played quarterback, cast and all.

"Pretty much the whole season," Merrell said.

He shook his head.

"He wants to win almost as much as he wants to breathe."

Norman High football coach Rocky Martin witnessed Horton's tenacity many times over the past three seasons, but it was never higher than during the playoffs this year. Horton had an ankle injury so severe the coaches didn't think he'd be able to play in the first round against Owasso.

Horton didn't just give it a go — he gave Owasso all it could handle.

Horton hit a couple touchdown passes in the first quarter, and Norman built a 14-6 lead. But when he reaggravated his injury, Owasso recovered and rolled and ultimately went on to win the state title.

Still, Martin remembers Horton's fight.

"He is as competitive as I've seen," the coach said. "You know, even if it's a silly ball toss game, he wants to win."

Wonder if we'll ever see what that looks like in crimson and cream.

"I think right now, he's pretty set on OU," Martin said. "That's where he's gonna go, and I hope he does because I know what type of player he is both on the football field and in baseball."

Seeing Horton play for the Sooners would be grand. A Norman kid as the baseball ace. Or the football quarterback. Or both. There'd be some intrigue in a local living that dream.

On Wednesday, Cade Horton took the next step in living that dream by signing his letter of intent.

This spring, he may have a chance to sign a contract of a different kind.

The good news for Horton — both seem like pretty good deals.

Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or jcarlson@oklahoman.com. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK or follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok.

Related Photos
<strong>Oklahoma signee Cade Horton smiles during his signing day ceremony Wednesday at Norman High School. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]</strong>

Oklahoma signee Cade Horton smiles during his signing day ceremony Wednesday at Norman High School. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-d2127fe1f1798c8803fbb6c1eb84cdb6.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma signee Cade Horton smiles during his signing day ceremony Wednesday at Norman High School. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] " title=" Oklahoma signee Cade Horton smiles during his signing day ceremony Wednesday at Norman High School. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Oklahoma signee Cade Horton smiles during his signing day ceremony Wednesday at Norman High School. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-b5ee1fb3ee5998489d29853507debad9.jpg" alt="Photo - Norman's Cade Horton is rated as the 40th best baseball draft prospect for next year by MLBprospect.com. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] " title=" Norman's Cade Horton is rated as the 40th best baseball draft prospect for next year by MLBprospect.com. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Norman's Cade Horton is rated as the 40th best baseball draft prospect for next year by MLBprospect.com. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-de7dcdf20fe5ada8185d26f0e827a9bc.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma signee Cade Horton, right, celebrates signing his letter of intent with classmate Anthony Jones on Wednesday at Norman High School. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] " title=" Oklahoma signee Cade Horton, right, celebrates signing his letter of intent with classmate Anthony Jones on Wednesday at Norman High School. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Oklahoma signee Cade Horton, right, celebrates signing his letter of intent with classmate Anthony Jones on Wednesday at Norman High School. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure>
Jenni Carlson

Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football... Read more ›

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