Paul Vernon Hornung (born December 23, 1935 in Louisville, Kentucky) was an outstanding all-around athlete who played college basketball but is best known as an American football player.
Hornung, nicknamed the "Golden Boy," won the Heisman Trophy in 1956 as the year’s outstanding player in United States College football and is the only player from a losing team (his University of Notre Dame team finished 2-8 that year) ever to win the trophy. Highly versatile, Paul Hornung was a quarterback who could run, pass, block and tackle and is the person most football observers consider as the greatest all-around football player in Notre Dame history. In the 1956 season, he led his team offensively in passing, rushing, scoring, kickoff and punt returns and punting. He also played defense and led his team in passes broken up and was a team second in interceptions and tackles made.
In 1957, after graduating university with a degree in business, Hornung was drafted number one overall into the National Football League by the Green Bay Packers with whom he would go on to win four league championships including the first ever Super Bowl in 1967. Unfortunately, a pinched nerve sidelined him, and he chose not to enter the game in the fourth quarter. He was the only Packer who didn't play in the game.
As a pro, he was one of the most versatile players in the history of the game, playing the halfback position as well as being a field goal kicker for several seasons. Hornung led the league in scoring for three straight seasons from 1959, through 1961. During the 1960 season, in just 12 games, he set an all-time record by scoring 176 points, plus, he also threw two touchdown passes. In 1961 he set the record for the most points scored in a Championship game.
Considered by some to be the best short-yardage runner to ever play the game, he was twice voted the league’s most valuable player and during his career was chosen as an All-Pro twice and named to the Pro Bowl twice. He is one of only five players to have won both the Heisman Trophy and the NFL's Most Valuable Player Award.
Honors and Awards
In addition to those mentioned above, Paul Hornung was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Also, the "Paul Hornung Award," is given out annually to the state of Kentucky’s top high school player.
Off the Field
Obliged to serve in the United States Military, Hornung was called up to active duty in the army during the 1961 season but was able to get weekend leave to play on Sundays. His coach, Vince Lombardi was a friend of the then President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, and the president arranged an army furlough so Hornung could play in the NFL championship game against the New York Giants.
Idolized by fans, and wealthy from numerous commercial endorsements, Paul Hornung enjoyed his success and the good life that fame and money brought. On more than one occasion, he was fined by his team’s coach for staying out past curfew. He is famously quoted as having once said: Never get married in the morning - you never know who you might meet that night.
His penchant for high-living would prove disastrous when, in 1963, a major scandal erupted and Paul Hornung and another of the league's top stars, Alex Karras of the Detroit Lions, were suspended from football indefinitely for betting on games and associating with undesirable persons. Forthright in admitting to his mistake, Hornung's image went relatively untarnished, and in 1964 his suspension (and that of Karras as well) was re-evaluated by the League and Hornung returned to play for the Packers for another three seasons before injury problems forced him to retire at the end of the 1966 season.
Following his retirement he entered the business world, primarily as a real estate investor, but remained involved with professional football as the producer and host of a nationally televised sports program. He also did commentary on television broadcasts of college football for several years to a generally favorable reception.
During a radio interview on March 30, 2004, Hornung, speaking about the recent lack of football success at Notre Dame, said, "We can't stay as strict as we are as far as the academic structure is concerned because we've got to get the black athletes. We must get the black athletes if we're going to compete." The response was immediate. The University replied with, "We strongly disagree with the thesis of his remarks. They are generally insensitive and specifically insulting to our past and current African-American student-athletes."
Hornung said that he wasn't differentiating between races. "We need better ball players, black and white, at Notre Dame."
Hornung wrote an autobiography, "Golden Boy", published in 1984. It covers a great deal of his early life and personal experiences that had not previously been publicized during his active career.
Last updated: 08-16-2005 20:19:48