Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 27, 2021

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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52 NOV. 27, 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED IRISH ECHOES JIM LEFEBVRE M agnetic. Versatile. Captivating. Enigmatic. Exhilarating. Clutch. These are just a few of the ad- jectives used to describe Paul Hornung, the football legend who died at age 84 on Nov. 13, 2020. His NFL coach with the Green Bay Packers, Vince Lombardi, simply called Hornung "the greatest player I ever coached." "The Golden Boy" holds a special place among two iconic fan bases — Notre Dame and Green Bay. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1985 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame the following year. Few players in football history have matched what Hornung did on the field of play. And fewer still created such an aura about him that resonated with teammates, fans and the media. Hornung was a multi-sport star at Flaget High School, the all-boys Catholic school in Louisville, just be- hind future Hall of Fame coach Howard Schnellenberger. Bear Bryant, then the head coach at Kentucky, made a strong pitch for Hornung to stay and play in his home state, but the allure of Notre Dame, and its string of national cham- pionships under Frank Leahy, was too much to ignore. Partly due to health issues, Leahy re- tired after the 1953 season, Hornung's freshman year. Terry Brennan ascended to head coach in 1954, and the Irish went 9-1 with Hornung playing backup full- back behind Don Schaefer. By the next fall, Hornung was ready to earn his spot as starting quarterback, taking over for graduated Ralph Guglie- imi. The Irish started strong, shutting out Southern Methodist, Indiana and Miami in their first three games before losing to nemesis Michigan State 21-7. Notre Dame then went on a five- game win streak, with Hornung lead- ing the way. On Oct. 29 the Irish faced unbeaten, fourth-ranked Navy, and at halftime honored Knute Rockne, 25 years after his death in a 1931 airplane accident. "Rockne would have been proud of the team second-year coach Terry Brennan sent into battle against the un- beaten Middies," The South Bend Tri- bune noted. "With dazzling Paul Hor- nung outshining the Middies' heralded George Welsh at quarterback … the Irish threaded through and around the Navy line for more than 300 yards rushing." Hornung showed his trademark ver- satility — rushing for one touchdown, passing for another and intercepting two Middies' passes to shut down Navy scoring threats in a 21-7 victory. It was against Iowa on Nov. 19 that Hornung cemented his place among Irish legends. With Notre Dame trail- ing 14-7 midway through the fourth quarter, "the spectacular Hornung " engineered a touchdown drive to tie the game, then "with 2:15 remaining, the sparkling signal-caller booted a 28-yard field goal for the winning margin in as bruising a struggle as 59,955 spectators ever witnessed. "Hornung, a junior meteor on a day when seniors were supposed to sparkle in their final home appearance, was carried off the field by his teammates and a wild student throng who then tore down the stadium goal posts for the first time in history," The Tribune's Joe Doyle reported. The next week at Southern Cal, in what would turn out to be a harbinger of 1956, Hornung's singular efforts would not be enough to down the Trojans. He accounted for 259 passing yards on just 10 completions and added another 95 yards on the ground for a total of 354 yards, the highest of the season in col- Hornung did it all as a senior in 1956 — leading the Irish in passing, rushing, scoring, kickoff returns, punt returns, punting and passes broken up, and finishing second in interceptions and tackles made — yet the team struggled to a 2-8 record. He remains the only Heisman Trophy winner to be selected from a team with a losing record. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS Paul Hornung's Legacy Includes A Most Unusual Heisman Trophy 65 Years Ago

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