Time keeps ticking as the Arizona Cardinals continue their search for a new head coach.
One of those candidates left sitting and waiting patiently is current Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton.
Most coaches and coordinators have hobbies they enjoy during the offseason to help get their mind off the game. Horton’s happens to be different than most — he enjoys flying planes.
“For me it’s just relaxation and something I’ve always wanted to do,” Horton said after a recent flying session. “I don’t know if it’s a male thing or not but you know you look up as a kid and you see planes and birds and you think, ‘why can’t man fly?’
“I just had the opportunity last year during the lockout and I did and it was amazing. It’s so much easier than I thought and so much more peaceful.”
The defensive coordinator revealed his unique hobby to me after practice one day and mentioned he has his pilot’s license. He joked about being a good pilot. “You’re more than welcome to come along some day,” he said.
As the offseason began and Horton’s future in Arizona in limbo, I started to think about his offer because he also said it’s something he does because it’s relaxing for him.
What better time to join him on a flight than in the midst of a head coaching search when peace and relaxation could be at a premium?? My thoughts exactly…
“With our schedule I try to fly every other Friday just to stay proficient at it. It’s one of those skills you can lose and get rusty at it,” Horton said when asked how he fits flying in with the busy schedule of an NFL coach. “So during the season twice a month and then during the offseason, this is the first offseason since I’ve had my license, so I don’t know.”
Horton said he’s enjoyed flying in Phoenix, Flagstaff and even in the Pittsburgh area. He’s flown during the night, logged cross-country hours and continues to improve, but admits there’s still learning to do.
“I’ve been probably flying twice a week where I actually go fly somewhere. I’m still a novice at it and learning. Michael Bidwill, the Cardinals owner, is a pilot and he says you’re always learning. It’s not really a license to fly; it’s a license to learn, because you’re always learning something. You should learn something every flight.”
That statement from Horton should not be a surprise to anybody who has spent time covering the coordinator during his two years in Arizona.
One could have guessed he’s as meticulous and detail-oriented when flying a plane as he is at breaking down offenses in the NFL.
Horton sees something he wants and goes after it without hesitation. He finished his ten-year playing career in the NFL in 1992 and has been a coach in the league ever since, including seven successful years with the Pittsburgh Steelers before joining Arizona in 2011.
So what was different about flying? Why wait until he was 50 years old to get his pilot’s license?
“Because of the time it takes. It would be hard to do that on your five weeks of summer vacation that you get,” he said. “I don’t think I would’ve had the time to devote during the season during the offseason of scouting and playbook and it just happened when the lockout came that everything was locked down for whatever that period was.”
Horton said it takes 60 hours total between flight and ground school.
“I started May 1 and basically got it right before training camp. Basically it was May, June, July; a three-month process to get it which was amazing but I flew twice a day sometimes.”
For a coach that doesn’t like to sit still, this coaching search may lead to a few more flying opportunities as it drags on.
Horton would argue he uses his flight time as something fun to do and not an activity to relieve a little stress that comes with the unknown of a coaching search.
“I’m not stressed,” he said laughing. “Why would I be stressed? I have no worries in my life.”
He’s proven to be pretty good at breaking down offenses and now proven to me that he’s pretty good at flying, too.