What is the Paul Hornung Award?

What is the Paul Hornung Award? Taking a closer look at one of college football's most prestigious honors.

College Football passes out awards every year to honor the achievements and accolades of standout performers across the nation. Many have been around for decades, while others have newer recognitions.

The Paul Hornung Award is one of the more recent awards in college cootball, and with that comes a bit of ambiguity around what the award represents and why Paul Hornung himself epitomizes what the Paul Hornung Award stands for.

What is the Paul Hornung Award?

The Paul Hornung Award recognizes the most versatile, high-level performer in college football. The award itself was created in 2010 by the Louisville Sports Commission, partly to recognize one of their local stars, Louisville’s own Hornung.

Hornung, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and Pro Football Hall of Fame, supported the Louisville Sports Commission in their venture. He was known as “The Golden Boy,” and legendary Green Bay Packers head coach Vince Lombardi described Hornung as “the greatest player I ever coached.”

Overall, Hornung was known for his athletic prowess, including his versatility. He played quarterback, halfback, and placekicker as he led the Packers to four NFL titles, including a victory in the first Super Bowl.

During his collegiate career at Notre Dame, Paul Hornung showed off his versatility, playing football and basketball. He played both sides of the ball for the Fighting Irish, developing as a tremendous halfback and safety. Hornung capped off his college career by becoming the first Heisman Trophy winner ever to be selected No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft.

He first cultivated his knack for versatility during his high school athletic career, as he was a three-sport athlete in football, basketball, and baseball while lettering all four years in each. Louisville is proud of their native son, and for good reason. Hornung exemplified and excelled on the field and off the field throughout his athletic career.

Who is Given the Paul Hornung Award?

The Paul Hornung Award has specific eligibility guidelines for the award. The scholar-athlete must remain in good standing and eligible with the NCAA during the selection process, including throughout the season, and play significant time for most, if not all, seasons.

Candidates must fit the criteria of one or more of the following:

  • Play multiple positions on offense or defense
  • Play a significant role on special teams
  • Performing as a two-way player, starting on one side of the ball and contributing on the other side
  • Making a significant impact during big games and elevating the team’s performance through leadership displayed by excelling in multiple roles

Paul Hornung Award Winners

Here are the previous winners of the Paul Hornung Award:

  • 2022: Jack Colletto, QB/FB/LB/ST, Oregon State Beavers
  • 2021: Marcus Jones, WR/CB/RS, Houston Cougars
  • 2020: DeVonta Smith, WR/RS, Alabama Crimson Tide
  • 2019: Lynn Bowden, QB/WR/RS, Kentucky Wildcats
  • 2018: Rondale Moore, WR/RS, Purdue Boilermakers
  • 2017: Saquon Barkley, RB/RS, Penn State Nittany Lions
  • 2016: Jabrill Peppers, QB/RB/WR/DB/LB/RS, Michigan Wolverines
  • 2015: Christian McCaffrey, RB/RS, Stanford Cardinal
  • 2014: Shaq Thompson, RB/LS/S, Washington Huskies
  • 2013: Odell Beckham Jr., WR/RS, LSU Tigers
  • 2012: Tavon Austin, WR/RB/RS, West Virginia Mountaineers
  • 2011: Brandon Boykin, WR/CB/RS, Georgia Bulldogs
  • 2010: Owen Marecic, FB/LB, Stanford Cardinal 

Stanford is the only school with multiple recipients of the Paul Hornung Award.

When is the Paul Hornung Award Given?

The Louisville Sports Commission has a unique process as they narrow down their finalists and eventually declare the recipient. They begin by creating a 50-player watch list, and during the season, on a weekly basis, they recognize outstanding performers for the Paul Hornung Honor Roll.

Following Week 11 of the college football regular season, the selection committee narrows their list to three finalists, announced on November 15th. In early December, after conference championship week, the selection committee ranks their three finalists, and the finalist with the most tallied points is announced as the winner of the Paul Hornung Award on December 6.

In March of the following year, the Louisville Sports Commission hosts the winner of the Paul Hornung Award during an official sports banquet in Louisville.