Paul Vernon Hornung (born December 23, 1935 in Louisville, Kentucky) is a former professional football player, playing for the Green Bay Packers from 1957-66. Hornung,one of the most versatile players ever to play the game, was Halfback, Quarterback,and Place Kicker. Hornung is one of the greatest all-purpose backs to ever play the game. Not only could Hornung run, he was a excellent passer, receiver, and blocker. Hornung was an excellent all-around athlete who played college basketball, but is best known for his prowess as a football player.
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. It is not known that anyone ever caught him from behind.
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 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 30 touchdowns 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. Hornung 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 (he scored 19 points on three field goals, three extra points, and a touchdown, a record that stood until 2006). 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.