Tonight, a national award will be presented to college football’s most versatile player. It’s called the Paul Hornung Award, named for the Kentuckian who excelled at several positions during Hall of Fame careers at Notre Dame and the Green Bay Packers in the 1950s and 60s. For Hornung, this Super Bowl week also stirs some memories from his NFL playing days.
Here’s a pretty good Super Bowl trivia question: In Super Bowl I, in which the Green Bay Packers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs, who was the only player from either team who did not see action in the game?
“I was hurt, I had a neck injury,” Hornug said. “And Coach Lombardi in the fourth quarter got me over to the side and said, ‘you want to go in for a play, just go in and come out, and just say you’ve been in?’ And I said ‘no I don’t want to do that.’ I’m glad I didn’t because I’m the answer to a what if question: Who’s the only player that didn’t play Super Bowl I? It was Paul Hornung.”
It’s been 45 years now since Hornung turned down the chance to get into the Super Bowl I box score. What he didn’t know was he would never suit up again for the Packers or any other team. Doctors told him that neck injury put him at risk of paralysis if he kept playing, so he retired.
Hornung, who’s now 76, chatted about the game last month at his office overlooking the Ohio River.
The native of the city’s Portland neighborhood has always called Louisville home and went into business here when he retired.
Two years ago, he agreed to lend his name to an award honoring college football’s multi-taskers; players who excel at more than one position. At Notre Dame, Hornung was a quarterback, halfback and placekicker who also played on defense.
“There aren’t any players around anymore than can do what he did. In fact, when Paul played, there weren’t many players who could do what Paul did,” said Karl Schmitt, executive director of the Louisville Sports Commission, which presents the award.
“But there still is a place for players, particularly, as Paul would say, at the college level, not the pro level, for players who perform over and above what you would expect a player to do at that level,” Schmitt said.
This year’s award goes to Brandon Boykin, a cornerback and kickoff returner for the University of Georgia.
If they gave an award for living the good life, it also might be named after Hornung. Nicknamed“Golden Boy” by a Courier-Journal sportswriter, Hornung enjoyed the fruits of his success on the playing field and riches generated by endorsements, and developed a reputation as a man-about-town. He was suspended from the NFL in 1963 for betting on football, but was reinstated the following year.
Hornung says luckily, he had an uncle and business partner in Louisville who gave him some solid financial advice.
“I’ve spent a lot of money, I guess you would say I’m a spender, but along the way I’ve hopefully invested in some projects that are pretty successful, and I have,” Hornung said.
As for this year’s Super Bowl, Hornung says he’s impressed with the New York Giants, who defeated his Packers to get into the NFC title game.
The Paul Hornung Award will be presented to the University of Georgia’s Brandon Boykin tonight at a banquet at the Galt House. Hall of Fame NFL coach Mike Ditka will be among the speakers.