The Pittsburgh Maulers have made their long-awaited coaching change. After a one-win season, Pittsburgh brings in another former Steeler assistant to take charge of the Maulers program. Ray Horton is a two-time Super Bowl champion, coaching defensive backs for the organization from 2004-10. He’s also created an impressive resume, coaching for nine different NFL organizations, most recently being the defensive backs coach for the now-Washington Commanders in 2019.
Horton’s experience ranges from being a former NFL player all the way to being a defensive coordinator in the NFL. This will be his first head coaching gig in his career. We’ll see how he rights this ship, after his predecessor Kirby Wilson managed to lead this Maulers squad to a league-worst 1-9 record.
Their inaugural season was full of controversy after Wilson cut a player due to his handling of a lunch order to USFL staff. The season went downhill from there on out, and Wilson now steps aside for “personal reasons”.
“I’m humbled to join the USFL as the new Pittsburgh Maulers head coach,” Horton said in a statement following the announcement. “We’re returning a solid core from one of the best defenses in the league, including All-USFL safety Bryce Torneden and Pittsburgh native Tre Tarpley. As we look for the next great quarterback in the USFL, I’m also excited about our returning offensive core. We will stay focused on delivering a USFL championship to Pittsburgh Maulers fans.”
Horton has already begun building his coaching staff, hiring Emerson Martin, former offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at Juanita College as their new wide receivers coach. Martin is also familiar with the Pittsburgh area as he spent four years of his playing career in the Steel City with the Steelers.
This won’t be an easy feat for Horton, but this team is young and in desperate need of a leader. It will be interesting to see if Horton can lead this team to victory in year two. The bar is low, so I’d expect immediate improvement out of the purple and orange this year.
Former head coach Kirby Wilson released the following statement.
“Due to personal reasons, it is with a heavy heart that I have resigned as head coach of the Pittsburgh Maulers,” Wilson said. “I want to thank the USFL, Daryl Johnston and the football support staff, but especially my assistant coaches and players. I had a wonderful experience during the history-making first year of the USFL. I will be forever grateful and forever a fan of this professional league. Thank you for believing in me and for providing an opportunity.”
Super Bowl champion and veteran NFL defensive coach assumes duties from former head coach Kirby Wilson
PITTSBURGH (Jan. 17, 2023) – The USFL today announced that NFL veteran defensive coach Ray Horton has been hired to lead the Pittsburgh Maulers. He immediately assumes duties from Head Coach Kirby Wilson who resigned earlier this month.
“We are thrilled Ray Horton is joining the USFL family as the new Pittsburgh Maulers Head Coach,” said Daryl Johnston, Executive Vice President of Football Operations. “He helped the Steelers win two Super Bowls as an assistant coach, so Pittsburgh football fans know him. He also won a Super Bowl as a player and my teammate on the 1992 Dallas Cowboys. Ray is a great leader and an even better person, and I’m excited to be teammates with him once again.”
Horton, 62, gets his first opportunity as a professional football head coach. Leading the Pittsburgh franchise also makes it a family affair, as his son Jarren Horton will remain Defensive Coordinator for the Maulers during the upcoming USFL Season 2.
“I’m humbled to join the USFL as the new Pittsburgh Maulers Head Coach,” said Horton. “We’re returning a solid core from one of the best defenses in the league, including All-USFL safety Bryce Torneden and Pittsburgh-native Tre Tarpley. As we look for the next great quarterback in the USFL, I’m also excited about our returning offensive core. We will stay focused on delivering a USFL championship to Pittsburgh Maulers fans.”
Born in Tacoma, Wash., Horton’s life has revolved around the game of football. A legendary 1970’s prep All-American player, he stayed home as a defensive back and special teams returner for the University of Washington. In 1983, Horton was drafted by the USFL Los Angeles Express, but ultimately played for the NFL Cincinnati Bengals who drafted him with the 53rd overall pick. After a stellar 10-year career with the Bengals and Cowboys, Horton turned immediately to coaching in 1994. He held various NFL defensive coaching positions for the Washington Football Team, Bengals, Detroit Lions, and Steelers where he coached teams that won Super Bowls XL and XLIII. He then became defensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals, Cleveland Browns, and Tennessee Titans. Most recently, he was the defensive backs coach for the Washington Football Team in 2019.
“Like all USFL coaches, Ray’s passion is helping players maximize their talents to become the best they can be,” said Johnston. “Ray’s experience and expertise will help our players and assistant coaches succeed at the professional level, and I know he will bring an exciting brand of football to Pittsburgh Maulers fans.”
Horton recently interviewed with the USFL’s Coach Selection Committee that included Johnston, former NFL head coach and current NBC Sports analyst Jason Garrett, NBC Sports executive Jon Miller, and Pro Football Hall of Fame general manager Bill Polian.
“Coach Horton left a great impression on everyone on the committee, so when Kirby Wilson informed the USFL that he was unexpectedly resigning, the first phone call we made was to Ray,” said Johnston.
Horton replaces Wilson, who had been preparing for the upcoming USFL Season 2 until he informed league officials of his decision.
“Due to personal reasons, it is with a heavy heart that I have resigned as head coach of the Pittsburgh Maulers,” said Wilson. “I want to thank the USFL, Daryl Johnston and the football support staff, but especially my assistant coaches and players. I had a wonderful experience during the history-making first year of the USFL. I will be forever grateful and forever a fan of this professional league. Thank you for believing in me and for providing an opportunity!”
Johnston said Wilson was a big reason why the USFL is the first major professional spring football league in nearly 40 years to complete a successful inaugural season and return for a second year.
“I think I speak for everyone in expressing sincere appreciation for Coach Wilson and everything he did to help the USFL complete a successful inaugural season,” said Johnston. “More than the head coach of the Pittsburgh Maulers, he was a mentor for other players, coaches, and staff. Kirby Wilson will always have a special place in the history of our league.”
USFL Season 2 kicks off April 15, 2023.
About the United States Football League (USFL):
Fun, fast, and physical, the USFL is a fan-first, player-friendly, stand-alone major professional spring football league. Run by experienced football leaders, the USFL’s successful first season finished July 3, 2022, at the Pro Football Hall of Fame stadium in Canton, Ohio, with the Birmingham Stallions winning the championship by defeating the Philadelphia Stars, 33-30. FOX Sports and NBC Sports are official media partners, presenting all 43 regular- and postseason games for the 8-team league. Former NFL Dallas Cowboys player and current FOX NFL analyst Daryl Johnston is USFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations. Former NFL Vice President of Officiating and current FOX NFL analyst Mike Pereira is USFL Head of Officiating. “United By Football” for fans of America’s favorite sport, USFL Season 2 kicks off April 15, 2023. Visit theUSFL.com and follow on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok.