April 27, 2012

MVP Profile: Paul Hornung, 1961


Halfback, Green Bay Packers



Age: 26 (Dec. 23)
5th season in pro football & with Packers
College: Notre Dame
Height: 6’2”    Weight: 215

Prelude:
Despite Notre Dame posting a miserable 2-8 record in his senior year, the “Golden Boy” was an All-American quarterback for the second time and capped his college career by winning the Heisman Trophy. He was chosen by the Packers in the first round of the 1957 draft but lacked the passing accuracy to play quarterback in the NFL. Hornung was tried at fullback and floundered for his first two years on a losing team before the arrival of Vince Lombardi as head coach in 1959. Lombardi installed him as an option halfback and, together with his role as the team’s placekicker, Hornung became a scoring machine as well as part of an excellent rushing tandem along with FB Jim Taylor. In 1959, he led the NFL with 94 points and earned a Pro Bowl selection while rushing for 681 yards and in ’60, as the Packers won the Western Conference, he set a league scoring record that lasted until 2006 with 176 points, including a league-leading 13 rushing touchdowns. He received consensus first-team All-Pro recognition and again was chosen to the Pro Bowl.

1961 Season Summary
Appeared and started 12 of 14 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Rushing
Attempts – 127 [15]
Most attempts, game - 22 (for 94 yds.) at Chicago 11/12
Yards – 597 [13]
Most yards, game – 111 yards (on 11 carries) vs. Baltimore 10/8
Average gain – 4.7 [9]
TDs – 8 [3, tied with J.D. Smith, Jim Brown & Rick Casares]
100-yard rushing games - 1

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 15       
Most receptions, game – 3 (for 17 yds.) vs. Detroit 9/17, (for 28 yds.) vs. Baltimore 10/8
Yards – 145
Most yards, game - 34 (on 1 catch) at Chicago 11/12
Average gain – 9.7
TDs – 2

Passing
Attempts – 5
Completions – 3
Yards – 42
TD passes – 1
Interceptions – 0

Kicking
Field goals – 15 [3, tied with Jim Martin & Lou Michaels]
Most field goals, game - 4 at Minnesota 10/22
Field goal attempts – 22 [10, tied with Tommy Davis]
Most field goal attempts, game – 4 vs. San Francisco 9/24, at Minnesota 10/22
Field goal percentage – 68.2 [2]
PATs – 41 [4]
PAT attempts – 41 [4, tied with Roger LeClerc]
Longest field goal – 51 yards at Chicago 11/12

Scoring
TDs – 10
Field Goals – 15
PATs – 41
Points – 146 [1]

Postseason: 1 G (NFL Championship vs. NY Giants)
Rushing attempts – 20
Rushing yards – 89
Average gain rushing – 4.5
Rushing TDs – 1

Pass receptions – 3
Pass receiving yards - 47
Average yards per reception – 15.7
Pass Receiving TDs – 0

Pass attempts – 2
Pass completions – 0
Passing yards – 0
TD passes – 0
Interceptions – 0

Field goals – 3
Field goal attempts – 3
PATs – 4
PAT attempts – 4
Longest field goal – 22 yards

Awards & Honors:
NFL MVP: AP, UPI, Bert Bell Award, Sporting News
1st team All-NFL: AP, UPI, NY Daily News, Sporting News
2nd team All-NFL: NEA

Packers went 11-3 to finish first in the Western Conference while leading NFL in rushing yards (2350), scoring (391 points), and touchdowns (49). Defeated New York Giants for NFL Championship (37-0).

Aftermath:
Missing time due to military service and injury, Hornung had a lesser year in 1962 as the Packers repeated as champions. A suspension for gambling cost him all of 1963, and when he returned in ’64 his performance suffered, in particular his placekicking. He lasted another two injury-plagued years, with a clutch five-TD performance against the Colts in ’65, as well as a solid rushing game in that season’s NFL Championship game, among the last major highlights of his career. Hornung was taken by the New Orleans Saints in the 1967 expansion draft but, due to a chronic pinched nerve in his neck, retired during training camp. He finished with 3711 rushing yards on 893 carries, 1480 yards on 130 pass receptions, five TD passes, 62 touchdowns, 66 field goals, 190 extra points, and 760 total points, which put him among the Top 10 career scoring leaders in NFL history at the time. An all-around talent who was at his best in scoring territory, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 1986.

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MVP Profiles feature players who were named MVP or Player of the Year in the NFL, AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press, Pro Football Writers Association, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, Maxwell Club – Bert Bell Award, or the league itself). 

[Updated 2/9/14]