Green Bay Packers legend and NFL Hall of Fame running back Paul Hornung has died at the age of 84 following a long battle with dementia, the Louisville Sports Commission announced Friday morning.
Hornung — who was born Dec. 23, 1935, in Louisville, Kentucky — was a rushing force as a halfback during the Vince Lombardi era in Green Bay and won four NFL championships with the Packers during his decade of play, including the first-ever Super Bowl. He also served as the team’s kicker and finished three consecutive seasons (1959-61) as the league’s scoring leader, earning All-Pro honors in each one.
Hornung remains one of the only players to ever win both the NFL’s Most Valuable Player Award (1961) and the Heisman Trophy (1956), the latter of which cemented his place in Notre Dame history as a record-setting quarterback. He has been inducted into the NFL, College Football, Wisconsin and Packers Hall of Fames.
The fourth Packers legend to die this year. Hornung was the first overall pick in the 1957 NFL Draft and won four championships with the Packers. https://t.co/oUMA5cNdK0
— Matt Schneidman (@mattschneidman) November 13, 2020
The Packers selected Hornung at No. 1 overall in the 1957 NFL draft and watched him flourish into a household name before his retirement in 1967. While dozens of his peers have praised his greatness in the years since he last played, no compliment carries more weight than how Lombardi described Hornung shortly after his career ended.
“Paul Hornung is the greatest player I ever coached,” Lombardi said, via Packers team historian Cliff Christl.
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Hornung Held Points Record Until 2006
Hornung broke numerous Packers and NFL records during his 10 seasons in the league with some marks still unbroken. He still holds single-season league records for most games with 30-plus points (two), 25-plus points (three) and 13-plus points (eight).
Even some of Hornung’s records that have since fallen took decades to go down. It wasn’t until LaDainian Tomlinson scored 186 points for the San Diego Chargers in 2006 that Hornung’s single-season points record (176 in 1960) was finally surpassed, and even Tomlinson took two more games to achieve the milestone. Tomlinson also just barely beat out the Packers legend’s record for most points scored in a single calendar month with his 78 in November 2006 beating out Hornung’s 77 in October 1961).
Hornung also held onto his record for most points scored in an NFL championship for more than half a century after putting up 19 points (three field goals, a touchdown and four extra points) against the New York Giants in 1961’s title game. New England Patriots running back James White finally outdid him in February 2017 when he scored 20 points in his team’s Super Bowl win over the Atlanta Falcons.
The entire Pro Football HOF family mourns the passing of Paul Hornung. 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.#HOFForever | @packers pic.twitter.com/DDYI6d04h2
— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) November 13, 2020
Technically, Hornung still owns one more NFL record — though, it isn’t the type he would have been particularly proud to have. He missed 26 field-goal attempts in 1964 and set an infamous league record for most misses in a single season.
Roger Goodell Releases Statement on Hornung
Hornung’s importance to the Packers extended well beyond the records he broke on the field. Not only was he one of the most popular Packers during the Lombardi era, but his league-wide appeal also helped bring more attention to the NFL as a whole as it continued to grow through the ’60s and into the ’70s.
NFL commissioner Roger Goddell touched upon some of Hornung’s impact on the league when he released the following statement Friday afternoon about his passing:
“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Green Bay Packers legend Paul Hornung, who thrilled a generation of NFL fans with his versatility, athleticism and personality that made him a favorite of legendary coach Vince Lombard,” Goodell said in his statement. “Paul was a leader of Green Bay’s dynasty in the 1960s and instrumental in growing the popularity of the Packers and the National Football League. He had a tremendous impact on the field, in the locker room with his teammates and the Green Bay community from his first day as the top pick in the 1957 NFL draft to his last game, the first Super Bowl in 1967.
On behalf of the entire NFL family, we send our heartfelt condolences to Paul’s wife, Angela, his family and Packers fans around the world.”