Paul Hornung, the dazzling “Golden Boy” of the Green Bay Packers whose singular ability to rack up points as a runner, receiver, quarterback and kicker helped turn the team into an NFL dynasty, died Friday. He was 84.
Hornung’s family confirmed his death to the Louisville Sports Commission and to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Hornung won the 1956 Heisman Trophy at Notre Dame. He was the NFL MVP in 1961 and played on four championship teams — 1961, ’62, ‘65 and ’66.
He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986.
Hornung won the Heisman as a quarterback. But he switched to halfback in the pros and was one of the NFL’s most dynamic players in Green Bay.
Playing alongside numerous future Hall of Famers, the blond, fun-loving Hornung was a favorite of Packers coach Vince Lombardi, who thought of the young star as a son and singled him out for praise and chastisement.
Frequent fines for missing curfew were forgiven once the game started, especially when No. 5 got close to the end zone.
“In the middle of the field he may be only slightly better than an average ballplayer,” Lombardi once said, “but inside the 20-yard line he is one of the greatest I have ever seen. He smells that goal line.”
Hornung already was on the team when Lombardi arrived in Green Bay in 1959. The Packers made Hornung the first pick of the 1957 draft after he won the Heisman Trophy for a Notre Dame team that went 2-8.
Hornung teamed with bruising fullback Jim Taylor for one of the NFL’s greatest backfields. They were known for the unstoppable power sweeps led by guards Jerry Kramer and Fuzzy Thurston.
But Hornung was also a force as a passer, blocker, receiver and kicker. He finished his nine-year career with 760 points on 62 touchdowns, 66 field goals and 190 extra points.
For three straight seasons from 1959-61, Hornung led the NFL in scoring.
In 1960 he totaled 176 points, which stood as a league record until LaDainian Tomlinson broke it 46 years later. But Hornung’s record came in 12 games, while Tomlinson needed 16.
Hornung also passed for two touchdowns in 1960, meaning he had a hand in 188 points, an average of 15.6 per game.
His talent was noticed even in the White House.
Hornung almost missed the Packers’ 1961 title game when he was summoned to duty by the Army, but a call from Lombardi to President John F. Kennedy led to Hornung being granted leave.
“Paul Hornung isn’t going to win the war on Sunday, but the football fans of this country deserve the two best teams on the field that day,” Kennedy said.
Hornung scored 19 points — then a title game record — on one touchdown rushing, three field goals and four PATs in the Packers’ 37-0 win over the New York Giants.
In 1965, Hornung scored five touchdowns against the Baltimore Colts in a 42-27 victory.
Hornung was on the first Super Bowl team for the 1967 game, but a pinched nerve sidelined him, and he chose not to enter the game when given the chance in the fourth quarter.
He was the only Packer who didn’t play in that Super Bowl as Green Bay beat the AFL’s Kansas City Chiefs 35-10 and were led by Hornung’s favorite drinking buddy, wide receiver Max McGee.
Hornung was selected by New Orleans in the 1967 expansion draft, a heartbreaking moment for Lombardi. But Hornung never played a game for the Saints, instead retiring.
“The entire Pro Football Hall of Fame family mourns the passing of Paul Hornung,” David Baker, the president and CEO of the Hall, said.
“He was an outstanding player and an incredible man. Known as ‘The Golden Boy,’ Paul was above all a leader to whom the Packers looked for the big plays in the big games — especially during the team’s dynasty years under coach Vince Lombardi in the 1960s.
“We will forever keep his legacy alive to serve as inspiration for future generations. The Hall of Fame flag will be flown at half-staff in Paul’s memory,” he said.
Several stars from Green Bay’s glory days have died this year. Along with Hornung, defensive greats Willie Wood, Herb Adderley and Willie Davis also died.
In July 2016, Hornung sued equipment manufacturer Riddell Inc., saying the football helmets he wore during his professional career failed to protect him from brain injury.
Hornung suffered multiple concussions with the Packers and had been diagnosed with dementia, the lawsuit said.
The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.
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