One of the true legends of both college football and the NFL has been lost to us today. Paul Hornung, who dominated at both the college and pro level, passed away today at the age of 84.
The Louisville Sports Commission confirmed Hornung’s passing today, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports. The Hall of Fame running back had been battling dementia for years. But that didn’t stop him from attending last year’s Heisman Trophy ceremony, nor appearing in commercials for the Nissan Heisman House.
Born in Louisville Kentucky in 1935, Hornung took his tremendous athletic talent to Notre Dame for college, where he was a two-time All-American. He beat the legendary Jim Brown (albeit controversially) to win the Heisman Trophy in 1956.
Hornung was the No. 1 overall draft pick in the 1957 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers. He played well in his first two seasons, but when Vince Lombardi was hired in 1959, he became the centerpiece to one of the greatest dynasties in American sports.
— Will Clark (@WClark840WHAS) November 13, 2020
Together with fellow Hall of Fame RB Jim Taylor, Hornung was one half of arguably the greatest RB tandem of all-time. They were by far the most successful, driving Vince Lombardi’s offense to four of his five NFL titles together, including the first Super Bowl.
Under Lombardi’s guidance, Hornung became a two-time Pro Bowl and All-Pro player. He len the NFL in touchdowns in 1960, and was voted to the NFL All-Decade Team for the 1960s.
Hornung was so vital to the team that Lombardi even managed to convince President John F. Kennedy to waive him from active duty in the U.S. Army in 1961 in order to play for him. When the President obliged, Hornung rewarded Lombardi with his first NFL title.
His NFL career was not without some controversy though. Hornung was suspended for the 1963 season for gambling on football.
But it didn’t stop him from getting into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1985, then the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986. Hornung is a member of the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame, and his No. 5 jersey was unofficially retired by the team.
Our hearts go out to the family and loved ones of the great Paul Hornung.