At East End Sports Cards, a local card shop, one of the guys there begins to talk about his experiences with football legend Paul Hornung.
“…Yeah, I was having him sign some stuff for me, and I asked him to write something extra,” he says. “Paul said that he usually just signed Heisman Trophy winner 1956. I said that’s great, so he signs a couple of cards but then on that last one I asked if he’d sign it, Golden Boy.”
And, he was just that. With those words, we begin our first Sports Legend of the Ville spotlight on Louisville legend Paul Hornung: a Packer, a Fighting Irishman, and a Louisvillian who still calls the Derby City his home.
In 1935, American football was really in its infancy, a rag-tag version of rugby that was slowly growing an audience. Yet, it was this game where the newborn Paul Vernon Hornung would eventually find his place. It was two days before Christmas of this year when the Hornung family first met Paul, an event which would prove to change the game of football in the coming years.
A natural athlete, Hornung lettered in his four years at the now defunct Bishop Benedict Joseph Flaget High School in basketball, baseball, and football. But, it was football where he excelled, developing a versatile game, where he played expertly as a halfback, quarterback, and place-kicker. This was a versatility rarely seen, so Hornung got offers from several colleges in the area, including Kentucky, after graduation. However, Hornung couldn’t resist the pull of the legacy of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and his mom’s request, and played for four years with them as a halfback and safety, though he was used as a utility player having abilities that led themselves all over the field.
It was this utility that led the Golden Boy to his Heisman Trophy in 1956. It was during this time that professional football seemed to be on an upsurge. The late 50’s early 60’s are often marked by football historians as a time when the game got faster, stronger, and athletes got better- able to move around the field with ease using sheer athletic ability. It seemed that Hornung fit this mold perfectly and, so, in a first round draft pick, Hornung went to Lambeau field to play for the famed Vince Lombardi in Green Bay, Wisconsin; a small town which the young New Yorker coach insisted in “putting on the map.” Certainly, he was going to do it with talent like Hornung.
Lombardi himself called Hornung, “the most versatile man who ever played the game.” Undoubtedly, the coach known as a task master called him some other things on the field, but it was through a common respect that Lombardi, Hornung, Starr, Kramer, and the rest of the now legendary Green Bay team of the 60’s won four league championships and that all too important first Superbowl in 1967.
During his tenure in the tundra of Green Bay, Hornung went to two pro-bowls and won the NFL’s prestigious best player award two years in a row in 1960 and 1961.
So, it was no shock when the Glamour Boy was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1986, and it’s with a storied tale like his that Paul Hornung is a Sports legend of the Ville.
Flatter, R. Hornung excelled on the field and had fun off it. ESPN.com. http://espn.go.com/classic/biography/s/Hornung_Paul.html
Image: D. Rose
Here's a quick video bio about Paul's quest for the Heisman Trophy at Notre Dame