University of Kansas

This KU freshman ran a 4.28 40-yard dash. ‘He’s going to surprise a lot of people’

KU’s Jamahl Horne on favorite kick returns he’s had in practice

Kansas freshman Jamahl Horne talks about his favorite kick returns in preseason practices and what he looks for. He spoke to reporters on Aug. 22, 2019.
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Kansas freshman Jamahl Horne talks about his favorite kick returns in preseason practices and what he looks for. He spoke to reporters on Aug. 22, 2019.

Kansas defensive back Hasan Defense peeked over his coach’s shoulder, trying to see what the stopwatch said.

This was mid-July — one of the hottest days of the year on KU’s outdoor practice fields — and Defense was a spectator during a team workout when receivers were running laser-timed 40-yard dashes.

Defense’s curiosity came naturally; the previous sprint by KU receiver Jamahl Horne had simply looked different from the rest.

“You could tell the way he got out,” Defense said, “he was moving.”

Horne’s official time in the summer heat: 4.28 seconds.

And the legend of Jamahl Horne at KU hasn’t been the same since.

“That’s legit speed,” receiver Stephon Robinson said.

“Whoever comes to the game is going to see it,” added safety Mike Lee.

“People try to run 4.2. People say they run 4.2,” Defense said. “When you actually run it, it’s different.”

Horne, a redshirt freshman from Miami, isn’t as impressed by his feat as many others. He says he’d already run a 4.35 in high school, and on this day, he wasn’t convinced he’d be at his best.

“We lifted, so my legs were kind of heavy,” Horne said with a smile. “I ran. I was like, ‘Four two-eight?’ I could probably run faster than that.”

The speed he’s shown so far should play plenty well for the Jayhawks.

Horne, in addition to claiming the title of KU football’s fastest man, also would hold his own across the country. Consider this: The fastest time at the NFL combine last year was 4.29 seconds by Ole Miss’ Zedrick Woods.

It’s not a surprise, then, that Horne has always been known for his standout trait, saying he originally started playing football “because my mom always thought I was fast.”

“When I go against people (at receiver), they usually back up,” Horne said with a laugh.

Defense confirmed this. KU’s coaches make it a priority to not get beat deep defensively, so whenever Horne subs in as a wideout, an extra bit of cushion is required.

“When you run a 4.2,” Defense said, “everybody’s going to know about it.”

Horne comes into the season as a bit of unknown after quietly showing up on KU’s campus in August 2018. Because of his late arrival, Horne expected to redshirt his first season, though he still showed off his talent in drills while winning multiple scout-team honors.

He remains a developmental project at KU. At 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, Horne is most likely to help KU this season as a kickoff or punt returner, especially while admitting his running style is to avoid cutting much with the goal of getting to top speed quickly.

Teammates, in particular, have been focused on his movements during special-teams run-throughs.

“Since I’m playing kick returner, they just want to see ... every game, I’ve got to put points on the board,” Horne said.

He likely has work to do if he wants to crack the two-deep at receiver. Horne’s straight-line speed, at this point, especially plays up on go routes, though Defense also remembered one particular play in practice where Horne caught a shallow pass between two linebackers before running past everyone for a touchdown.

“Honestly, right now I’m focused on whatever position they put me,” Horne said. “It could be special teams. I’m just trying to make the team better.”

Those around him figure he’ll do that, both now and in the future.

That’s what his speed can do.

“He’s going to surprise a lot of people,” Lee said. “You’ve got to keep your eyes open.”

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Jesse Newell — he’s won an EPPY for best sports blog and previously has been named top beat writer in his circulation by AP’s Sports Editors — has covered KU sports since 2008. His interest in sports analytics comes from his math teacher father, who handed out rulers to Trick-or-Treaters each year.
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