The 2023 All-Aegis football team: 'Survival of the fittest' mentality leads Julien Horton to Player of the Year honors

Dec. 29—By Sam Cohn —

December 29, 2023 at 5:00 a.m.

It's etched in red ink, tattooed across Julien Horton's right forearm. The wrist tape he wears on gameday sits just beneath the last letters, careful not to cover it. Amidst sketched clouds that wrap around to meet a similarly themed bible scripture, the conspicuous red reads, "survival of the fittest."

Horton, Bel Air's safety and receiver and The Aegis 2023 football Player of the Year, had the creed tattooed before the start of the fall season. For him, it's emblematic of an embattled journey that offers language to fit his on-field confidence.

"My thing is, you can't play this game scared," Horton said. "You always got to have no fear on the field. Whether it's coming down and making tackles or going up and getting a 50/50 ball, you got to want it more than the other person. That's why I got [the tattoo]. You're either gonna go get [the ball] or you're not."

His fearless approach comes from his dad, Jay.

Jay is a lifelong boxer and mixed martial artist originally from Alabama. The combat sports were largely a hobby, credentialed by a few amateur fights. Julien was only 4 years old when he began tagging along, his miniature wiry frame strapping on oversized gloves and headgear to spar with the older crowd.

It was there, sharing time in a musty gym, that Horton was drilled to never back down from anyone — a demeanor he first carried onto the football field at age 9.

Horton might've began playing football sooner but his parents were nervous their small — even for his age — son would be susceptible to injury. They were right. Horton would endure a slew of concussions and broken bones in the early stages of his peewee football career.

Admittedly, it damaged his love for the game. His passion never dwindled though. By eighth grade he was back on the field, much to the chagrin of his parents. "That took a lot of convincing," he said. But soon he'd be in recruiting talks with high schools all over Maryland.

Horton landed on Calvert Hall in Towson, but the Cardinals never felt like the right fit. He felt "counted out" at times. Bel Air saw something in Horton. And Horton, in turn, transferred to where he felt most appreciated.

"We were excited when we knew there was a possibility of him transferring back to his home school," Bobcats coach Eric Siegel said. "The opportunity for me and my staff to coach a player of his caliber is a special thing. ... You never count your chickens before they hatch but when he showed up for workouts, it was like, 'Man, we got a special person and a special talent.'"

Horton hadn't fully stepped foot on the field back in Harford County when his leadership qualities became evident. He was soon their linchpin. The kind of player who, when coaches assign a certain amount of time on film study, Siegel logs on Hudl to find Horton doubled that request.

An already talented team took to the new guy. They wanted to be around that work ethic.

"One of the more difficult traits at a young age is the ability to lead men," Siegel said. "It's his personality. ... He's never demanding of someone. He's going to do it and they're going to follow."

Sure, there was a layer of stature for an incoming transfer from a revered program. But Horton never flaunted that or even talked about it. He wanted to be there, soon voted as a junior team captain — a Bel Air football rarity.

Siegel put it simply: "He knows what he needs to do to reach the goals that he wants to. But he also knows if he doesn't do those things, he's not going to reach it."

Those goals include playing Division I football. Horton already holds Power Five offers from Georgia Tech, Temple, West Virginia and Boston College. Penn State and Maryland have additionally been in the mix.

Horton spent this summer at team workouts four days a week. After that, he'd race to workout with trainer Darius Johnson of HighSpeedDBs. Heading into this season with a new program was all about maximizing his potential. Particularly after all those injuries and the feeling of being under appreciated at his previous stop.

Like the red-inked creed says, it's about 'survival of the fittest.'

"I don't fear anybody on the field," Horton said. "Whether you're number one in the country or a 5-star [recruit], you're gonna have to show me why. I always play with a chip on my shoulder like I have something to prove."

All-Aegis First Team

Caesar Travers, Edgewood, senior, quarterback

Edgewood's nearly undefeated season started with its quarterback play, with Travers throwing for 1,677 yards with 21 touchdowns, eight interceptions and a 52.6% completion percentage.

Joel Tristan Ouandji Nana, Bel Air, junior, running back

Bel Air's top backfield option rushed for 804 yards on 122 attempts with a long of 69 yards. He additionally caught 18 passes for 174 yards and a long of 40.

RJ Wilhelm, Patterson Mill, junior, running back

Wilhelm joined historic Huskies company eclipsing 1,000 rushing yards with an average of 6.9 per carry.

Harold Davis, North Harford, senior, receiver/running back

North Harford's fastest skill position player operated from the backfield and as a wideout. Davis had 22 receptions for 311 yards with a long of 64 and five receiving touchdowns. On the ground, he totaled 71 carries for 520 yards and five rushing scores.

Junior Aderomilehin, Harford Tech, senior, receiver

Aderomilehin caught 37 passes for 583 yards and four touchdowns for a lucrative Cobras offense.

Jacob Martin, Edgewood, senior, receiver

Edgewood's top wideout option tallied 27 regular season receptions for 445 yards and six touchdowns.

Related Articles

Aegis Sports — The week in review: A look at the top teams, players and performances in Harford County and the surrounding area (Jan. 1-6)

Aegis Sports — Patterson Mill girls basketball's in-game adjustments prove to be the difference in 56-42 win over Edgewood

Aegis Sports — Baltimore Sun high school Athletes of the Week (Jan. 1-7): Mount Saint Joseph's Carter Nogle and Sparrows Point's Myah Hazelton

Aegis Sports — The All-Aegis 2023 girls and boys cross country teams

Aegis Sports — John Carroll boys basketball's Aidan Able scores 38 with a team-first approach in 77-64 win over Gilman

Mekhi Alford, Edgewood, senior, offensive line

Alford held down the front line of the Rams' one-loss team.

Neal Harricharan, Harford Tech, senior, offensive line

Harricharan played a crucial role in bolstering the Cobras' dynamic offense.

Clay Lawrence, North Harford, senior, offensive line

The Hawks' two-way lineman finished with 46 tackles, seven TFLs, four sacks and blocked three field goals.

Landon Mills, Fallston, senior, offensive line

Mills was a force up front for Fallston's state quarterfinal playoff run, paving the way for the Cougars run game.

Xavier Stacker, Joppatowne, sophomore, offensive line

Stacker was nominated by coaches around the county as one of the county's top linemen.

Karon Evans, Harford Tech, junior, defensive back

Evans was one of the best lockdown defenders in the county, a key cog for the Cobras defense.

Robert Martin, Joppatowne, senior, defensive back

Martin didn't allow a single catch all season, pulling in one interception.

Jahmir Torres, Edgewood, senior, defensive back

Torres finished with 17 total tackles with an interception and a forced fumble. Additionally, he paced the Rams' ground game with 572 yards on 89 carries with six touchdowns.

Kendrick Williams, Joppatowne, senior, defensive back

Williams reached 40 tackles, an interception and one defensive touchdown. The Mariners top defensive back is committed to Army.

Brewer Fullwood, C. Milton Wright, senior, linebacker

C. Milton Wright's stout defense started with Fullwood, who finished this fall with 78 total tackles, two sacks, one interception, one forced fumble and a forced safety.

Kent Holcolmbe, North Harford, senior, linebacker

Holcombe finished the regular season with 74 tackles, three interceptions, a pair of punt blocks, one field goal block, two forced fumbles and fumble recoveries, and a forced safety.

Adam Shefcheck, Patterson Mill, senior, linebacker

The two-time captain and cornerstone of Patterson Mill's defense totaled 90 tackles in nine games with 18 TFLs.

JoJo Aidoo, John Carroll, senior, defensive line

The Patriots defense started with Aidoo up front, having made 62 tackles, 18 TFLs and eight sacks.

Zion Elee, Joppatowne, sophomore, defensive line

The Mariners defensive lineman finished with 13 sacks, 26 TFLs and three forced fumbles.

Josh Osuagwu, C. Milton Wright, senior, defensive line

Osuagwu had 29 tackles with a whopping nine sacks, 26 hurry ups and a forced fumble.

Oliver Rueckert, Fallston, sophomore, defensive line

Rueckert made 39 tackles and 4.5 sacks his sophomore season.

Jason Roberts, Fallston, senior, kicker

Roberts was the state leader in field goals connecting eight of 11 attempts, three of which from 40-plus yards. He made 29 of 30 extra points. In 19 punts, he averaged a distance of 32.4 yards. And Roberts was ranked nationally by the Kohl's Kicking Service.

All-Aegis second team

Patrick Sullivan, Bel Air, junior, quarterback

Jamaal Pearl Jr., Harford Tech, junior, running back

Ethen Gunter, Perryville, senior, running back

Samir Manning, Patterson Mill, senior, receiver

Kyle Richards, Perryville, senior, receiver

Brandell Stokes, Havre de Grace, junior, receiver

Matt Valente, Bel Air, junior, offensive line

Dylan Myers, Patterson Mill, junior, offensive line

John Weber, C. Milton Wright, senior, offensive line

Thomas Kilby, Perryville, senior, offensive line

Joseph Spencer, Havre de Grace, junior, offensive line

Jayden Byard, Perryville, sophomore, defensive back

Luke Robinson, John Carroll, senior, defensive back

Aiden Myers, Patterson Mill, senior, defensive back

Kyle Frank, C. Milton Wright, senior, defensive back

Darius Fleming, Edgewood, junior, linebacker

Hayden Goscinski, C. Milton Wright, senior, linebacker

Dougie Kolb, John Carroll, senior, linebacker

Ethen Oakley, Harford Tech, senior, defensive line

Luke Plesniak, Patterson Mill, junior, defensive line

Shaun Anderson, North Harford, senior, defensive line

Owen Reilly, Bel Air, freshman, defensive line

Logan Shaw, Perryville, junior, kicker

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