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Paul Hornung

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No. 5
Position: Halfback, Safety, Placekicker
Personal information
Date of birth: (1935-12-23) December 23, 1935 (age 80)
Place of birth: Louisville, Kentucky
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Career information
High school: Louisville (KY) Flaget
College: Notre Dame
NFL draft: 1957 / Round: 1 / Pick: 1
Career history
Career highlights and awards



Career Template:If empty statistics
Rushing Yards: 3,711
Rushing Average: 4.2
Receptions: 130
Receiving yards: 1,480
Receiving average: 11.4
TD's: 72
Stats at

Paul Vernon Hornung (born December 23, 1935) is a retired professional football player, a Hall of Fame running back for the Green Bay Packers of the NFL from 1957 to 1966, winning four NFL titles and the first Super Bowl. He is the first in pro football history to win the Heisman Trophy, be selected as the first overall selection in the NFL Draft, win the NFL most valuable player award, and be inducted into both the professional and college football halls of fame.[1]

A versatile player, Hornung was a halfback, quarterback, and placekicker. An excellent all-around athlete, he also played college basketball for Notre Dame.

Early years

Born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, Hornung was an outstanding athlete at Bishop Benedict Joseph Flaget High School in Louisville, and lettered four years each in football, basketball, and baseball. He was recruited by Bear Bryant at Kentucky in nearby Lexington, but chose to attend Notre Dame instead. Flaget High School was permanently closed in 1974.

College career

After spending his sophomore season of 1954 as a backup fullback, Hornung blossomed as a halfback and safety during his junior year in 1955. He finished fourth in the nation in total offense with 1,215 yards and six touchdowns. His two touchdowns on offense and two interceptions on defense spurred a victory over No. 4 Navy, and his touchdown pass and field goal beat Iowa. In a loss to Southern California, Hornung ran and threw for 354 yards, the best in the nation in 1955. Hornung, nicknamed the "Golden Boy," won the Heisman Trophy in 1956 as the year's outstanding college football player in the United States and is the only player from a losing team (his Notre Dame team finished 2-8 that year) ever to win the trophy.[2] Highly versatile, he was a quarterback who could run, pass, block, and tackle. Many consider Hornung the greatest all-around football player in Notre Dame history.[3][4][5] 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 second in interceptions and tackles made. He jokes about the fact that he was among the nation's leaders in kickoff returns by saying, "We gave up so many points that our opponents were always kicking off to us."

Hornung also played basketball during his sophomore year at Notre Dame.[6] He has said that he attended Notre Dame in part for the opportunity to play basketball, and that he was asked not to continue playing in order to help keep his grades up.[7]

At the 1957 College All Star game in August, Hornung had a famous match race with Abe Woodson. This was one of the greatest college all star teams ever assembled. Woodson said, "We had Jim Brown, Jim Parker, John Brodie, Jon Arnett, Len Dawson, Paul Hornung and Tommy McDonald, with Curly Lambeau and Otto Graham as our coaches, and we still lost 22-7 to the New York Giants. Oh, well." Just for fun, Woodson, one of the fastest players ever to put on pads, and Hornung agreed to a Script error: No such module "convert". match race. Hornung won by five yards.

Passing statistics

Year Comp   Att   Comp % Passing   TD  
1954 5 19 26.3 36 0
1955 46 103 44.7 743 9
1956 59 111 53.2 917 3

Professional career

Green Bay Packers

After graduating from Notre Dame with a degree in business, Hornung was the first selection overall in the 1957 NFL Draft. He was taken by the Green Bay Packers, with whom he would go on to win four league championships, including the first Super Bowl in January 1967.

He was the only Packer on the roster who didn't play in Super Bowl I. A pinched nerve sidelined him, and he chose not to enter the game in the fourth quarter.

As a pro, Hornung 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 1959-61. During the 1960 season, the last with just 12 games, he set an all-time record by scoring 176 points. Hornung also passed for two additional touchdowns, which did not add to his point-scoring total. The record stood until the 2006 season, when running back LaDainian Tomlinson of the San Diego Chargers broke the record with 180 points by scoring his 30th touchdown on December 17, leaving him with four points more than Hornung's record with more than two games to play (but in his 14th game compared to Hornung's 12 games).

In 1961, he set the record for the most points scored in an NFL Championship game (19). In Green Bay's 1965 championship win, he rushed for 105 yards and a touchdown on a very muddy field against the Cleveland Browns. In October of that same year, he set a record for most points in a calendar month with 77. This was broken in November 2006 by LaDainian Tomlinson, who posted 78 points.

Considered by many to be the best short-yardage runner to ever play the game, Hornung was voted the league's MVP in 1961 and 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.

In 1965, in the twilight of his career (at age 28), Hornung scored a team-record five touchdowns in a 42-27 win over the Baltimore Colts. Hornung's five TD's were overshadowed by the record-tying six touchdowns scored by Chicago's Gale Sayers later that same day against San Francisco. But the Packers' victory over the Colts proved important for the Packers, as they wound up tied with the Colts in the Western Conference standings at season's end (forcing an extra playoff game which the Packers would win in overtime to advance to the NFL Championship). In that NFL Championship game, Hornung ran for 105 yards and a touchdown in the Packers' 23-12 championship victory over the Cleveland Browns.

A pinched nerve in Hornung's neck severely curtailed his playing time in 1966, and Hornung did not see action in Super Bowl I, when the Packers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs, 35-10. Hornung was selected in the expansion draft by the New Orleans Saints, who later traded for Hornung's backfield mate at Green Bay, former LSU All-American Jim Taylor. Hornung never suited up for the Saints, as the neck injury forced him to retire during training camp. Taylor & Hornung were affectionately known as "Thunder & Lightning" by Packer fans of the early 1960s.

Paul Hornung holds the record for most games with 30+ points (2), the most games with 25+ points (3), and the most games with 13 points in a season (8 games in 1960). He is also the oldest player ever to score 5 touchdowns in a single game (29 years, 354 days). He also holds the dubious distinction of having missed an NFL record 26 field goals in 1964.[8]

Honors and awards

In addition to the honors previously mentioned, Paul Hornung was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was elected to the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 1990. Also, the "Paul Hornung Award" is given out annually to the state of Kentucky's top high school player. Starting in 2010, an award named in Hornung's honor is given out to the most versatile college football player in the nation.[9] Hornung's number 5 was also unofficially retired by the Packers on July 10, 1967, as there has not been a ceremony to have his number on the wall of retired numbers at Lambeau Field.[10]

Off the field

Obliged to serve in the U.S. Army, Hornung was called to active duty during the 1961 season but was able to get weekend passes to play on Sundays. His coach, Vince Lombardi, was a friend of President John F. Kennedy, and it was arranged for a pass so Hornung could play in the NFL championship game against the New York Giants.

Sport magazine named Hornung the most outstanding player in the 1961 Championship Game, which led to a tax dispute that cemented the tax status of awards to athletes. Hornung was awarded a 1962 Corvette by Sport magazine, but the Corvette's fair market value was not included on his tax returns for either 1961 or 1962. Because it would have been impossible for Hornung to take possession of the Corvette in 1961 - the game was played on December 31 in Green Bay and the car was in a closed dealership in New York - it was determined that the car should have been included in income in 1962. More importantly for the athletic community, the court in Hornung v. Commissioner, also determined that awards for achievement in the field of athletics do not fall under the exceptions provided under section 74(b) of the Internal Revenue Code. From this point on, it became impossible for athletes to exclude any awards they are given for athletics from their gross incomes.[11]

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 by commissioner Pete Rozelle for betting on NFL games and associating with undesirable persons. Forthright in admitting to his mistake, Hornung's image went relatively untarnished, and in 1964 his suspension, and Karras's, were re-evaluated by the League. Both returned for the 1964 season.

Hornung played for the Packers for another three seasons before injury problems forced him to effectively retire at the end of the 1966 season. The one-year suspension to Hornung and Karras for an offense unrelated to drugs would not go matched until that of Pacman Jones for the 2007 season. On the wall around Lambeau Field where the names of Packers' stars are commemorated, the 1963 season is omitted from Hornung's career years, showing 1957-1962 & 1964-67.

Hornung had an appearance in the 1968 movie "The Devil's Brigade."[12]

In a September 2006 interview with Bob Costas, Hornung stated that it was his belief that it was Vince Lombardi's constant lobbying of NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle that got him reinstated for the 1964 NFL season. In exchange for Lombardi's efforts, Hornung agreed not to have anything to do with gambling, to stay out of Las Vegas and to even forgo attending the Kentucky Derby which he had done annually.[13]

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 and NFL 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."[14] The response was immediate. The University replied, "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."[14] Famed former Notre Dame head coach Ara Parseghian also disagreed with Hornung, saying that Notre Dame didn't lower admission standards for him.

Hornung said that he wasn't differentiating between races. "We need better ball players, black and white, at Notre Dame."[14]

Hornung wrote an autobiography, Golden Boy, which was published in 2004. It covers a great deal of his early life and personal experiences that had not previously been publicized during his active career. In September 2006, his book entitled Lombardi and Me: Players, Coaches, and Colleagues Talk About the Man and the Myth was published.

He wrote a letter to Pete Rozelle, upon the commissioner's retirement, crediting him with promoting the NFL's growth and for having been "the best commissioner of any [sports league]."[13]

See also


  1. "List of Heisman Trophy winners - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia". Retrieved October 11, 2012. 
  2. "1956 - 22nd Award". Retrieved 2007-12-22. [dead link]
  3. "Biography of Paul Hornung". All American. Retrieved 2007-12-22. 
  4. "Heisman History: A Look Back At 1956". The Heisman Pundit. November 10, 2006. Archived from the original on 2007-10-29. Retrieved 2007-12-22. 
  5. "Notre Dame Heisman Trophy Winners". Retrieved 2007-12-22. 
  6. Douchant, Mike (1995). Encyclopedia of College Basketball. International Thomson Publishing. ISBN 0-8103-9640-8. 
  7. Live interview during the broadcast of the March 15, 2012 NCAA Tournament first round game between Murray State and Colorado State.
  8. Who Holds the Record for Most Missed Field Goals in a Season?
  9. "Home". The Paul Hornung Award. September 17, 2012. Retrieved October 11, 2012. 
  10. Christl, Cliff. "No. 5 should hang on Lambeau wall". Retrieved July 28, 2010. 
  11. Samuel A. Donaldson, "Federal Income Taxation Of Individuals: Cases, Problems and Materials", 2d. edition (St. Paul: Thompson-West 2007, 2d edition), 353-359
  13. 13.0 13.1 "Reggie Bush". Costas Now. Episode 202. 2006-09-06. HBO. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 "Sports of The Times; Hornung Has Failed to Meet Standard of Common Sense". The New York Times. 2004-04-01. Retrieved 2011-12-18. 

Further reading

External links

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