Five Offensive Players / Returns Specialists Named 2020 Paul Hornung Award Finalists
Award Presented by Texas Roadhouse; Goes to the Most Versatile Player in Major College Football
Louisville, Ky. – Dec. 23, 2020 – Five offensive playmakers / return specialists, including two who will be playing in the College Football Playoffs, were named 2020 Paul Hornung Award Finalists. The Paul Hornung Award presented by Texas Roadhouse is given annually by the Louisville Sports Commission to the most versatile player in major college football. Chosen as finalists by a 17-member Selection Committee and online fan voting are: Michael Carter (North Carolina); D’Wayne Eskridge (Western Michigan); Travis Etienne (Clemson); DeVonta Smith (Alabama); and Kadarius Toney (Florida).
The announcement was made today by the Louisville Sports Commission (LSC), owners and operators of the Award. The LSC created the Award in 2011 along with football legend and Louisville native Paul Hornung, who passed away on Nov. 13 at age 84.
“Paul Hornung would love this list of finalists because he had a great appreciation for players who performed at a high level in the big games,” said Karl F. Schmitt Jr., LSC president and CEO. “With Paul’s recent passing, the LSC is pleased to continue to present this award in the spirit of his on-field accomplishments and legacy.”
Nicknamed The Golden Boy, Hornung was a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback at Notre Dame in 1956 and an NFL MVP with the Green Bay Packers whose versatility earned him enshrinement in both the College and Pro 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. At Green Bay, he played halfback, handled kicking duties, and set the NFL single-season scoring record in 12 games in 1961 that stood for 46 years.
The 17-person Paul Hornung Award National Selection Committee chose the 2020 finalists, with fans generating the 18th vote online. The 11th Paul Hornung Award winner will be chosen from among the finalists and announced on Jan. 6, 2021. Fan voting for the winner, powered by Texas Roadhouse, opens today and continues through Jan. 4 at www.paulhornungaward.com and will again count as the 18th vote. Fans can vote once every 24 hours for their favorite from among the five finalists.
The Paul Hornung Award finalists represent the SEC, ACC and the MAC; combined for 7,605 total yards receiving, rushing, passing and returning kickoffs and punts; and scored 65 touchdowns rushing, receiving and returning punts and kickoffs.
Michael Carter, Senior running back / return specialist, 5-8.25, 199 lbs.
North Carolina Tar Heels (8-3, 7-3 in the ACC)
Michael Carter played in all 11 games as a big play running back and outstanding pass catcher who also handled kickoff returns. He averaged 8.0 yards per carry (third nationally), 10.7 yards per catch, and 151.6 all-purpose yards per game (13th nationally). Carter was second in the nation with runs of 10+ yards and averaged 10.4 yards per carry in games against teams in the Top 25. He compiled 308 all-purpose yards and two scores against Miami, and 251 all-purpose yards and two scores against Virginia Tech. Carter made the Paul Hornung Award Weekly Honor Roll four times: against NC State, Duke, Wake Forest and Virginia Tech, touching the ball three different ways and accumulating 100+ all-purpose yards and touchdowns in each game.
- All-Purpose: 1,668 yards (151.6 avg. per game)
- Rushing: 1,245 yards, 9 TDs (113.2 avg. per game)
- Receiving: 267 yards, 2 TDs (24.3 avg. per game)
- Kick Return: 156 yards (14.2 avg. per return)
D’Wayne Eskridge, Senior wide receiver / return specialist, 5-9, 190 lbs.
Western Michigan Broncos (4-2 overall and MAC)
D’Wayne Eskridge played in all six games, led the nation with 213 all-purpose yards per game (130.7 receiving, 4.5 rushing and 77.3 returning kickoffs.) and scored two different ways – receiving and returning a kickoff. Known for his breakaway speed, Eskridge had touchdown receptions of 85, 76, 57, 51 and 49 yards and returned a kickoff 100 yards for a score. He made the Paul Hornung Award Weekly Honor Roll twice: in a win over Central Michigan when he caught four passes for 212 yards and three touchdowns and recovered two onside kicks late in the game; and in a win over Northern Illinois when he compiled 285 all-purpose yards and returned a kickoff for a touchdown.
- All-Purpose: 1,119 yards (223.8 per game)
- Rushing: 1 rush, 27 yards (27 per rush, 5.4 per game)
- Receiving: 25 receptions, 660 yards, 7 TDs (5 receptions per game, 26.4 per catch, 132 per game)
- Kick Return: 15 returns, 432 yards, 1 TD (28.8 per return, 86.4 per game)
Travis Etienne, Senior running back / kick returner, 5-10, 205 lbs.
Clemson Tigers (10-1 overall, 8-1 in the ACC)
Travis Etienne played in all 11 games as a premiere running back and pass catcher who saw spot duty on kick and punt returns at crucial times in big games. He touched the ball an average of 18 times per game rushing, receiving and returning punts and kicks; averaged 145.3 all-purpose yards per game; and scored 15 touchdowns rushing and receiving. Etienne returned a kickoff to near midfield to help change the momentum when Clemson trailed Boston College 28-13, and set the tone for the second half with a 37-yard kickoff return to near midfield in the ACC Championship against Notre Dame. Etienne earned Paul Hornung Award Weekly Honor Roll twice: 264 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns in a win against Boston College; and in the ACC Championship, he touched the ball three different ways for 189 all-purpose yards and a touchdown.
- All-Purpose: 1,598 yards (145.3 avg per game)
- Rushing: 882 yards, 13 TDs (80.2 avg per game)
- Receiving: 524, 2 TDs (47.6 avg per game)
- Punt Return: 44 yards (44.0 avg per return)
- Kick Return: 148 yards (24.7 avg. per return)
Devonta Smith, Senior wide receiver / return specialist, 6-1, 175 lbs.
Alabama Crimson Tide (11-0 overall and 10-0 in the SEC)
Devonta Smith touched the ball four different ways, compiled 160.6 all-purpose yards per game (ninth nationally); averaged an astounding 25.6 yards per punt return; and scored receiving, rushing and returning a punt. Smith scored four times against Mississippi State; three times against LSU; and twice against Georgia, Kentucky and Auburn. He led the nation in yards after a catch and nearly 50 percent of his catches went for scores or first downs. Smith returned a punt 84 yards for a score against Arkansas and finished the game with 111 punt return yards. He made the Paul Hornung Award Weekly Honor Roll three times: 220 all-purpose yards and two scores against Ole Miss; 198 all-purpose yards and a score against Auburn; and 208 all-purpose yards, a score and an onside kick recovery in the SEC Championship game.
- All-Purpose: 1,767 yards (160.6 avg per game)
- Receiving: 1,511 yards, 17 TDs (137.4 avg per game)
- Rushing: 11 yards, 1 TD (1.0 avg per game)
- Kick Return: 46 yards (15.3 avg per return)
- Punt Return: 199 yards, 1 TD (24.9 avg per return)
Kadarius Toney, Senior wide receiver / return specialist, 6-0, 193 lbs.
Florida Gators (8-3 overall and 8-2 in the SEC)
Kadarius Toney started all 11 games and averaged 131.9 all-purpose yards per game touching the ball five different ways – receiving, rushing, passing and returning kicks and punts. He was one of three FBS players to record touchdowns rushing, receiving and returning punts; and one of four to record two touchdowns receiving and one rushing in a game. Toney had receptions of 57, 51 and 49 yards; runs of 50 and 13 yards; punt returns of 50, 26 and 19 yards; and threw a 12-yard pass. He made the Paul Hornung Award Weekly Honor Roll four times: 101 all-purpose yards and three scores against Mizzou; 191 all-purpose yards and a score against Vandy; 248 all-purpose yards and a touchdown against LSU; and 211 all-purpose yards and a score against Alabama.
- All-Purpose: 1,439 yards (130.8 avg per game)
- Receiving: 984 yards, 10 TDs (89.5 avg. per game)
- Rushing: 161 yards, 1 TD (14.6 avg per game)
- Kick Return: 155 yards (22.1 avg per return)
- Punt Return: 139 yards, 1 TD (12.6 avg per return)
- Passing: 1-2 for 12 yards (12.0 avg. per attempt)
All votes for the Paul Hornung Award are independently tabulated by regional accounting firm Dean Dorton, one of the largest accounting and financial advisory firms in Kentucky, with offices in Louisville and Lexington, Ky., and Raleigh, N.C.
The Louisville Sports Commission successfully launched the Paul Hornung Award in 2010 to honor its namesake and native son, and to promote outstanding performances by versatile college football players who often go unnoticed.
- 2019: Lynn Bowden Jr. of Kentucky made the move from all-purpose receiver/wildcat quarterback/return specialist to quarterback in mid-season and led the Wildcats to a 5-2 record and Belk Bowl win over Virginia Tech.
- 2018: Rondale Moore of Purdue was a dynamic All-American freshman sensation who broke the school record for all-purpose yards in a season and a game with 2,215 and 313, respectively.
- 2017: Saquon Barkley of Penn State was an electrifying All-American running back who lined up at slot and wildcat quarterback, and returned kicks and punts;
- 2016: Jabrill Peppers of Michigan played 15 different positions on defense, offense and special teams, and earned first team All-America at linebacker;
- 2015: Christian McCaffrey of Stanford was a workhorse on offense and special teams who broke the NCAA record for all-purpose yards, finishing with 3,864;
- 2014: Shaq Thompson of Washington was a two-way player, earning first team All-American honors at linebacker and finished as the Husky’s second-leading rusher at tailback;
- 2013: Odell Beckham Jr. of LSU finished the season ranked second in the nation and first in the Southeastern Conference with 2,222 all-purpose yards and 185.2 average yards per game;
- 2012: Tavon Austin of West Virginia earned All-American by scoring 17 touchdowns receiving, rushing, returning kicks and punts; and amassing 2,272 all-purpose yards, including 572 yards versus Oklahoma.
- 2011: Brandon Boykin of Georgia was a lockdown cornerback on defense; scored three touchdowns playing quarterback, running back and slot on offense; and led the SEC in punt and kick returns.
- 2010: Owen Marecic of Stanford was a two-way starter who averaged 110 snaps per game and earned first team All Pac-10 at fullback and honorable mention at linebacker.