Paul Hornung (born December 23, 1935 in Louisville, Kentucky) is a legendary player who played for the Green Bay Packers from 1957-66. As a versatile all-around athlete, Hornung played as a halfback, quarterback, and placekicker.
After graduating from Notre Dame with a Heisman Trophy to his credit, 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 ever Super Bowl in January 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 Super Bowl I.
Hornung was an outstanding athlete at Bishop Benedict Joseph Flaget High School in Louisville (now closed), having lettered four years each in football, basketball, and baseball. He was recruited by Bear Bryant at Kentucky, but chose to attend Notre Dame instead.
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 USC, 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 University of Notre Dame team finished 2-8 that year) ever to win the trophy. Highly versatile, he was a quarterback who could run, pass, block, and tackle. Many consider Hornung 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 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.
In the 1957 College All Star game, Hornung had a famous match race with Abe Woodson. This was one of the greatest college all star teams ever assembled, Woodson: "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, who was one of the fastest players to ever put on pads, and Hornung agreed to a 100 yard match race which Hornung won by five yards.
Green Bay PackersEdit
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 ever Super Bowl in January 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 Super Bowl I.
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 on 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. (Hornung claims that Tomlinson has not really broken his record based upon the NFL season comprising 12 games in Hornung's time, and asserts that a points-per-game comparison is more appropriate.)
In 1961, he set the record for the most points scored in an NFL Championship game. In Green Bay's 1965 championship win, he rushed for 105 yards and a touchdown on a very muddy field against the Cleveland Browns.
Considered by many to be the best short-yardage runner to ever play the game, Hornung was twice voted the league’s MVP 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 29), 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 (7 games in 1960). He is also the oldest player ever to score 5 touchdowns in a single game (29 years, 354 days).
Off the fieldEdit
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 31st 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 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.
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.
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 did annually.
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." 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." Even Ara Parseghian 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."
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]."