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Horton brothers look for last hurrah

LOS ANGELES -- Shane Horton and Wes Horton haven't always played on the same football team. It just feels that way.

At eight years old, Wes joined older brother Shane -- then nine -- on a Pop Warner football team, and save for the odd year when Shane was forced to move up a level -- Pop Warner to high school, high school to college -- the two have been inseparable on the football field. The two have shared a home, a locker room and a huddle for as long as they can remember.

But Saturday's game could be the last time they are able to share a high-five after Shane collects a big tackle, or a chest bump after Wes comes up with a sack. As a redshirt senior, Shane will be playing in his final game as a USC Trojan.

"I could care less," said Shane Horton, not even attempting to keep a straight face through the obvious joke. "It's crazy, because it's finally here. We've been playing together for so long, and this is the last one. The chances of us playing together again are pretty slim."

Of course, at one point, the chances that both would end up playing together at USC were nonexistent.

Shane and Wes Horton weren't supposed to be a part of the Trojans Family. They were literal sons of Westwood, raised on a steady diet of eight-claps. Their father, Myke Horton, was an offensive lineman at UCLA and the two were on their way to becoming Bruins from an early age. Shane said he remembers sitting on the couch with his brother and father watching the Trojans take on the Bruins. Needless to say, there wasn't much cardinal spread throughout the house.

Shane has said that his father joked about disowning the boys if they ever attended USC.

But when it came time for Wes Horton to choose a school after a stellar prep career at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, Pete Carroll's program was impossible to turn down.

"He brainwashed us into being a Bruin most of our lives," Wes said of his father. "But I was kind of open to [attending USC] because UCLA wasn't playing as well. I came out here for junior day and saw the tradition, saw the direction the program was going and felt like it would put me in the best situation to make me a better player."

Wes eventually committed to USC, a decision that eventually netted the Trojans both Hortons. After spending his freshman season at UNLV, Shane looked for an opportunity to transfer closer to home and to prove himself in the Pac-10. UCLA was a natural choice, but the family pull to USC was too strong.

"It was a no-brainer," Shane said of the decision to attend USC. "It was an opportunity to come play with my brother."

Shane began his career at safety before moving to linebacker and authoring one of the more memorable moments of his career with a 10-tackle performance against Stanford in 2010, which included a forced fumble. He often had a great view of his brother's accomplishments as well, often lining up directly behind Wes. And while Shane has given to way redshirt freshman Hayes Pullard at weakside linebacker, his production on special teams has been consistent. As a senior, he had an opportunity to transfer without sitting out a season when sanctions hit USC, but he chose to stay in order to continue playing with his brother.

"We have a tighter bond than anybody else on the field," Shane said. "I know he always has my back."

The Hortons said Saturday could be bittersweet, as neither is looking forward to their final opportunity to play together, but both look forward to every opportunity to play against their father's alma mater.

"He says he's an SC fan until Saturday, then he's back with the Bruins," Shane said. "It's always good because we're 3-0 against him so far."

The only thing less surprising than the Horton brothers taking the opportunity to flex their success as Trojans against their father is the fact that they are teaming up yet again in another aspect of their lives.

"We live together, we play football together and we have a few classes together, so I'm always around him," Wes said. "Always having him around is nice. It's family; it's blood. Anytime you have a sibling with you at all times of the day, it makes the whole day better."

Saturday could be made even better with a win, although the Hortons haven't put much thought into how they will commemorate their final game as college teammates. But if things go well, the brothers won't hesitate to remind their relations exactly what family they belong to.

"Hopefully we'll be celebrating a big win and then talk a bunch of smack to my dad all night," Shane said.

Erik McKinney is the recruiting editor for WeAreSC.com and has covered the Trojans since 2004. He can be reached at erik@wearesc.com.