Pittsburgh Maulers head coach Ray Horton received a word of advice well before he worked through a 10-round college draft Tuesday. Shortly after he took the USFL team’s reins, former Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert reached out.
“He sent me a nice text,” Horton said. “He said, ‘Hey Ray, you know what the formula is. You pick very good players that love football, and are smart and don’t have character issues.’ And that’s what we did in Pittsburgh … We’re following that model. We’re looking for really good football players and good character for the community.”
The Steelers’ rock-solid structure is one that Horton would love to replicate with the Pittsburgh Maulers
“To me, being inside the building, understanding what that was like — I keep saying the culture, because, really, that’s what Pittsburgh is,” he said. “It’s a way of life, if you will, in the football world … That’s what I want.”
Colbert isn’t the only influence that has helped shape Horton’s preferences. The Maulers’ coach has been around a who’s who of football greats in his career. From playing for who he called “The Grandfather of Modern Football” — Massillon, Ohio, native Paul Brown — and former Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson, to coaching with Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin, there’s been a lot of knowledge to absorb.
“I have a lot of ties to the Ohio Valley,” Horton said. “I have a lot of outstanding role models and you try to take nuggets from them that make them great and successful.”
His contemporaries in a new frontier have also been of assistance.
“The other USFL coaches that I’ve met — Skip Holtz, Mike Reilly, Kevin Sumlin — those guys have been very gracious and helpful with their time and their thoughts,” Horton said.
Time and again, he’s been a part of the process of molding a team. He’s used to working a draft, constructing a roster, and ironing things out in training camp. Horton’s team will resemble those that Pittsburgh fans are used to watching if all goes to plan.
The Maulers open their regular season against the New Orleans Breakers on Sunday, April 16. They’ll play against their hub neighbors, the New Jersey Generals, in Canton the following week. For USFL ticket information, fans can visit theUSFL.com. Go to the Canton “TICKETS” section to make a $25 deposit and get priority access to games at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.