Casually dressed in khakis and a collared shirt with the Fox Sports logo, Derek Horne easily mingles with staff while leisurely making his way to his corner office.
Comfortably seated among multiple piles of papers stacked neatly across his desk and two computers, Horne appears to have had a calm transition into his new position as Florida A&M University’s athletic director.
However, his one-word narrative of his first day, Sept. 7, conveyed a much different image: “Fast!”
“I got here at 7 a.m. and looked up, it was 7:30 p.m.,” Horne said. “Since last Tuesday I’ve been meeting, meeting and meeting.”
Horne made it top priority to get acquainted with coaches and staff as soon as his family relocated to Tallahassee from Mississippi.
His wife Sheila Horne, concurs the workaholic “has been on the go since he got the word he will be the next AD of FAMU,” in July.
Horne also plans to visit with the student athlete advisory committee this week.
”My first initiative is to listen to the student athletes, listen to the coaches, listen to the staff and listen to the alumni. And listen to the people in the community,” Horne said. “I can’t really make a full assessment of what we need to do, and make an informed decision if I don’t listen to the key stakeholders.”
Although, FAMU has shuffled through at least five athletic directors in the past seven years, the 15-year veteran in athletic administration understands the challenges of the job and is aware it will not change overnight.
“I understand there have been a lot of turnovers, but my desire is to be here and have a long career here, and try and make a positive impact,” Horne said. “I told the committee when I interviewed that I’m not in a sprint. This is a long-distance race for me. I think consistency will make us successful.”
The humbled athletic director said he especially wants to have an impact on student athletes and is passionate about getting more former athletes involved and feeling connected to the university.
“He really cares about students and their well-being and athletics, as a former athlete himself,” his wife said. “Derek is a gentle giant, always willing to help others succeed.”
Standing at 6 foot 6, Horne was a popular forward for the basketball team at the University of Mississippi. Horne returned to his alma mater to serve in his most recent position as senior associate athletics director.
“There are so many different traits that you can learn as a student athlete that are transferable into anything you do,” Horne said. “And I think a lot of time about different things that my coaches told me that I try and implement in what I do and share with others too.”
Basketball is in his blood, as Horne came from a family of stellar athletes. Both his parents played basketball. His mother, Alice, played basketball and was inducted to the 1999 Sports Hall of Fame at Albany State University.
Having a profession where he could still be within the company of sports and influence young people was Horne’s ideal job. Being close to home made the deal even sweeter.
“He is from Quitman, Ga., so he is very familiar with this area. It brings him closer to his mom and other family members,” Sheila Horne shared.
Ole Miss Athletic Director Pete Boone, who hired Horne, said his departure was bittersweet.
”He was absolutely the right person for the job,” Boone said. “But I think this is excellent for him. Every time you go into another job you’re able to bring the experiences you have with you. I think he’ll be somewhat of an agent of change.”
John Hartwell, senior executive associate athletic director at Ole Miss acknowledged Horne having his hands in a little bit of everything and creating a positive morale within the department.
“He made our department a better work place,” Hartwell said. “He was heavily involved in our concessions and our apparel sales, helped strengthen those relationships, which in turn helped drive revenue force.”
Just shy of the one-month benchmark as athletic director, Horne is looking forward to working with everyone including those outside of the athletic department.
“I feel we have a lot of great things in place here that can not only be something that student athletes can enjoy, but I think our fans will be able and want to embrace, not only to give in buying season tickets” Horne said, but have everyone, from alumni to students to have their hands on deck in making this program excel.