There's a famous Abraham Lincoln quote about the amount of life one can pack into the years mattering more than the length of the life itself. The sentiment of the 16th president's thoughts has never rung truer than when remembering the years of Jason Horton, 27, who passed away Sunday after a long battle with cancer.
Horton was five-time member of the Colorado Rapids Special Olympics Team, dating back to the 2014 season. His trademark height and long strides were unmistakable on the pitch during his playing days, but it was his unwavering support and commitment to the team during times when wasn't able to play that were equally as impactful.
"Jason endured more than anyone should have to in his short life, but he didn’t view it like that. He was a fighter, he was joyful, and he was the epitome of resilience," said friend and Rapids Senior Director of Community Relations, Caitlin Kinser. "Being able to know Jason has changed my life and I know it has done so for many other Colorado Rapids staff, players and fans. He will be missed."
Many first heard of Horton's incredible courage in 2016, when he was unable to make the Special Olympics Team trip to Salt Lake that August due to a battle with cancer. He was on the minds of his teammates and first team players that evening.
Horton received an honorary ESPN ESPY award in 2017 and was a special guest at that year's Colorado Rapids' A Burgundy Affair end of season banquet. In 2018, he was presented with the Athlete with Disabilities Award at the 2018 Colorado Sports Hall of Fame, meeting Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning in the process.
More than anything, Jason's view of the world seemed to resonate most with those who met him.
"I like to play with those who don't have disabilities," Horton said in a 2017 interview. "To let them know that we are not different, we are all the same."
In 2019, Horton again missed the Unified Team trip to Minnesota due to health complications and was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2020.
"Seeing him participate in Special Olympics has been something that's been a joy in my life just to see him break out and really persevere. I see how far he comes through his physical ability," Jason's sister-in-law, Nwando Horton, said after he'd won the ESPY award.
When the Unified Team resumed play in 2021, Horton was promoted to Assistant Coach where he served on the sideline during his final season. He would have celebrated his 28th birthday on Thursday.
"Jason will be remembered for being many things: a brother, an athlete, a musician, a die-hard Atlanta fan, a friend and much more," Kinser said. "But above all, he will be remembered as an inspiration."