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Five High-Powered Playmakers Named Paul Hornung Award Finalists

Pac-12 Lands Two Players; Big 12, Big Ten and SEC Land One Each

Louisville, KY – Thursday, November 20, 2014 – Four offensive stars who perform double duty on special teams and a two-way “runningbacker” have been named finalists for the Fifth Annual Paul Hornung Award, presented by Texas Roadhouse and given annually to the most versatile player in major college football. The five players represent four power conferences: the Pac 12, Big 12, SEC and Big 10.

Chosen as finalists by a vote of a 16-member Selection Committee are: running backs/ return specialists Ameer Abdullah (Nebraska), B.J. Catalon (TCU) and Marcus Murphy (Missouri); wide receiver/ return specialist Ty Montgomery (Stanford); and linebacker/ running back Shaq Thompson (Washington). Online fan voting counted for the 17th vote. Online voting where fans can select the winner from among the finalists opened today at www.paulhornungaward.com

The announcement was made today by the Louisville Sports Commission along with football legend and Louisville native Paul Hornung. Nicknamed The Golden Boy, Hornung was a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback at Notre Dame in 1956 and the NFL Most Valuable Player with the Green Bay Packers whose versatility earned him enshrinement in both the College and Professional Football Halls of Fame. At Notre Dame, Hornung played every position in the offensive backfield, handled punting and placekicking duties, returned kickoffs and started at safety on defense. He set an NFL scoring record for the champion Green Bay Packers in 1961 that stood for 46 years.

So far in 2014, the five Paul Hornung Award finalists have accounted for 2,950 rushing yards, 1,121 receiving yards, 1,317 kickoff return yards, 512 punt return yards and 220 interception/fumble return yards. Reminiscent of Hornung during his playing days, the finalists have demonstrated a knack for scoring, accounting for 48 total touchdowns six different ways – rushing, receiving, punt return, kickoff return, interception and fumble returns.

The skills of the finalists will be on display this weekend as three lead their teams in contention for conference titles and two battle for bowl eligibility. Abdullah and Nebraska (number 23/21) take on Minnesota (number 25/NR) as the Cornhuskers are in second-place in the Big Ten West. Catalon and the TCU Horned Frogs (number 5/5) travel to Texas to face the Long Horns and try to stay atop the Big 12 standings with two games left in their regular season. Murphy and the Missouri Tigers (number 20/19) travel to Tennessee and look to remain in first place in the SEC East and make it to the SEC Championship game for the second consecutive year. Montgomery leads Stanford against crosstown rival Cal in The Big Game as the Cardinal search for their sixth win. Thompson and the Huskies continue to scramble for a winning record on the season as they face Oregon State at home then travel to Pullman to face Washington State in the Apple Cup.

All votes for the Paul Hornung Award are tabulated independently by regional accounting firm Dean Dorton, one of the largest accounting and advisory firms in Kentucky, with offices in Louisville and Lexington. The winner and his family will be honored on January 27, 2015, at the annual Paul Hornung award Banquet presented by KentuckyOne Health at the Galt House Hotel in downtown Louisville.

Brief Bios on the Five Finalists for 2014 Paul Hornung Award

Nebraska running back and return specialist Ameer Abdullah ranks among the top 10 nationally in all-purpose yards per game (third), rushing touchdowns (fourth), scoring (seventh) and rushing yards per game (ninth). Abdullah has rushed for better than 200 yards four times during the 2014 season, tying a Nebraska record. He has also produced a pair of games with more than 300 all-purpose yards, making him the only player in the nation with two games with 300-plus all-purpose yards. Abdullah set a Nebraska record for career all-purpose yards (6,700), while ranking second in Big Ten history in career all-purpose yardage. He was the dominating factor in the Huskers for a 41-31 win over the Miami Hurricanes: 313 all-purpose yards, including 229 rushing yards and two scores on a career-high 35 carries. He added a three-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter and 81 yards on four kickoff returns to finish the night as Nebraska’s career all-purpose yardage leader. In the Cornhuskers win over Rutgers, Abdullah set a school record with 343 all-purpose yards.

TCU tailback and kick return specialist B.J. Catalon, has been a huge part of the team’s rise to the top of the Big 12 standings and number five ranking in the College Football Playoffs. He leads the team in all-purpose yards (910), touchdowns (12) and kick return yards. Catalon led the Horned Frogs with 144 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns in a 37-33 upset win against number four-ranked Oklahoma Sooners when he carried the ball 11 times for 48 yards and a touchdown, caught a pass for 39 yards and a touchdown, and returned a kickoff return for 57 yards. The following week, he scored three times and recorded 213 all-purpose yards in a last-second loss at number five-ranked Baylor, 61-58. Catalon ran the ball 13 times for 48 yards and two touchdowns, caught two passes for 71 yards and returned a kickoff 94 yards for his third score of the game. Catalon is one of five active players with 1,500 career yards rushing (1,644) and 900 in kickoff returns (997). He was named to the All-Big 12 Academic team in 2013.

Stanford wide receiver and return specialist Ty Montgomery piled up 1,401 all-purpose yards, recording 23 carries for 146 yards and one touchdown, 60 receptions for 590 yards and three touchdowns, 12 punt returns for 238 yards and two touchdowns and 17 kickoff returns for 429 yards. He averaged 140.1 all-purpose yards per game this season, having recorded two games of more than 200 all-purpose yards. He averaged 19.8 yards per punt return, 25.2 yards per kickoff return and 9.8 yards per reception. During week four of the season, Montgomery went up against Shaq Thompson and the Washington Huskies and accounted for 149 all-purpose yards and a touchdown in a 20-13 Pac-12 win on the road. Montgomery summed up the hard-fought win in the second quarter when he caught a two-yard pass, steamrolled several Husky defenders down the sideline and backpedalled the final five yards for a 17-yard score.
Montgomery is first among FBS active leaders in combined kickoff and punt return yards with 2,732.

Missouri running back and punt/kickoff return specialist Marcus Murphy has touched the ball 180 times this season running, receiving and returning kickoffs and punts, and has scored touchdowns in each of those categories. He has carried the ball and returned a punt in every game, and caught a pass and returned a kickoff in 10 games. His season totals to-date: 128 carriers for 607 yards, 20 receptions for 143 yards, 21 punt returns for 274 yards and 11 kickoff returns for 362 yards. Murphy’s breakout game came against Florida when he recorded 224 all-purpose years and three touchdowns – a five-yard reception, 96-yard kickoff return and 52-yard punt return. He averaged a workmanlike five yards per carry, seven yards per reception, 13 yards per punt return and 33 yards per kickoff return. He currently is the NCAA active leader in career return yards, and owns the Mizzou records for special teams touchdowns (seven) previously held by Jeremy Maclin and the career return yards record with 2,686.

Washington linebacker / running back Shaq Thompson – whose admirers coined the term “runningbacker” on Twitter – has earned numerous pre-season and mid-season accolades on defense and has been an offensive threat for the Huskies in six games this season. Thompson has scored four times on defense – three fumble returns and one interception return – and only two FBS defensive teams have scored more. His three fumble returns for touchdown went long distance: 100 yards versus Cal, 52 yards versus Illinois and 32 yards versus Stanford. A defensive anchor at linebacker, he filled in at safety during one game and has started twice on offense. For the season, he has compiled 14 plays of 10 yards or more, four on defense and 10 on offense. He has compiled 456 rushing yards, averaged 7.5 yards per carry and scored two rushing touchdowns. He averaged nearly 50 all-purpose yards per game (rushing, receiving, interception and fumble return), 14 yards per reception, and led the team in total tackles, fumble recoveries and tackles for loss.