Four Players on Offense, One on Defense Named 2021 Paul Hornung Award Finalists
Award Presented by Texas Roadhouse; Goes to the Most Versatile Player in Major College Football
Louisville, Ky. – Nov. 17, 2021 – Four offensive playmakers / return specialists, and one defensive player who returns kicks and punts and sees spot play on offense, were named 2021 Paul Hornung Award Finalists. The finalists chosen by a 17-member Selection Committee and online fan voting powered by Texas Roadhouse are Blake Corum, Michigan; Justin Hall, Ball State; Marcus Jones, Houston; Jayden Reed, Michigan State; and Kyren Williams, Notre Dame.
The Paul Hornung Award presented by Texas Roadhouse is given annually by the Louisville Sports Commission (LSC) to the most versatile player in major college football. The announcement was made today by the 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 in Nov. 2020.
“Paul Hornung appreciated players who do whatever their coaches ask of them to help the team win games, the way he played the game,” said Karl F. Schmitt Jr., LSC president and CEO. “This group of finalists fits that description and then some.”
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 2021 finalists, with fans generating the 18th vote online. The 12th annual Paul Hornung Award winner will be selected from among the finalists and announced on Dec. 8, 2021. Fan voting for the winner, powered by Texas Roadhouse, opens today and continues through Dec. 6 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 Big Ten, the MAC, AAC along with one independent. The players combined for 5,867 all-purpose yards, 49 touchdowns and three interceptions.
Blake Corum, Sophomore running back / return specialist
Michigan Wolverines (6-1 Big Ten, 9-1 overall)
Michigan speedster Blake Corum is third in the Big Ten and 16th nationally in all-purpose yards per game (135.4) touching the ball running, receiving and returning kickoffs. He started the season with three consecutive 100-yard rushing games, scored three touchdowns in back-to-back UM wins over Washington and Northern Illinois, scored twice rushing against Northwestern and scored twice against Western Michigan (one rushing, one receiving.) He had a season best with 171 rushing yards, three rushing touchdowns and 231 all-purpose yards versus Washington, scoring on runs of 67, seven and four yards. Corum now has four, 100-yard rushing games; scores a touchdown every 13.5 touches; and averages 25.3 yards per kickoff return, tops in the Big Ten. He was slowed by injury in week 10.
• All-Purpose: 1,216 yards (135.4 average per game)
• Rushing: 129 rushes, 778 yards, 10 touchdowns (84.6 average per game)
• Receiving: 20 receptions, 137 yards, one touchdown (15.2 average per game)
• Kick Return: 12 kick returns, 304 yards (33.8 average per game)
Justin Hall Senior wide receiver / return specialist
Ball State Cardinals (3-3 MAC, 5-5 overall)
A prolific all-purpose receiver and punt/kick returner, Justin Hall is 15th in the nation and second in the MAC in all-purpose yards (136.1 per game) and has scored six touchdowns rushing, five receiving and one on a kickoff return. He touched the ball rushing, receiving and returning punts and kicks in the first seven games, since then opponents consistently have squibbed or pooched kickoffs away from him and punted out-of-bounds. He averages an astounding 34.5 yards per kick return and a healthy 12 yards per punt return. Hall touched the ball 20 times for 162 all-purpose yards and two scores in BSU’s win over Eastern Michigan and touched the ball 12 times four different ways against Army, including a 99-yard score with the opening kickoff in a 28-16 BSU win.
• All-Purpose: 1,361 yards (136.1 average per game)
• Receiving: 59 receptions, 606 yards, five touchdowns (60.6 average per game)
• Rushing: 37 rushes, 255 yards, six touchdowns (25.5 average per game)
• Kick Return: 11 kick returns, 380 yards, one touchdown (34.5 average per return)
• Punt Return: 10 punt returns, 120 yards (12 average per return)
Marcus Jones Senior cornerback / return specialist
Houston Cougars (7-0 AAC, 9-1 overall)
An all-star at cornerback and returning punts and kickoffs, Marcus Jones also sees spot play on offense for the Cougars. On special teams, he is fourth in the nation in punt return / average yards (14.3) and scored twice; he averages a staggering 36.9 yards per kickoff return and scored twice. On defense he made 38 tackles, three interceptions and five pass break ups. On offense, he caught 10 passes for 109 yards and a score and carried the ball twice. Jones had a career night in the Cougars’ 44-37 shootout win over SMU: he returned a kickoff 100 yards for the winning score with 30 seconds remaining; made six tackles, including a tackle for loss; intercepted a pass; and amassed 177 return yards on three kick returns and two punt returns.
• All-Purpose: 785 yards (78.5 average per game)
• Tackles: 38 total, 29 solo, nine assisted (3.8 average per game)
• One tackle for loss
• Interceptions: three for two yards
• Pass Breakups: five
• Rushing: two rushes, four yards (two average per attempt)
• Receiving: 10 receptions, 109 yards, one touchdown (10.9 average per reception)
• Kick Return: 10 kick returns, 369 yards, two touchdowns (36.9 average per attempt)
• Punt Return: 21 punt returns, 301 yards, two touchdowns (14.3 average per attempt)
Jayden Reed Junior wide receiver / return specialist
Michigan State Spartans (6-1 Big Ten, 9-1 overall)
Jayden Reed touched the ball receiving, rushing and returning punts and kicks and currently is 13th in the nation and second in the Big Ten in all-purpose yards per game (130.9). He averages an incredible 21 yards per punt and 25.3 yards per kickoff return. Reed touched the ball four ways and scored on touchdown receptions and punt returns in MSU’s wins over WKU and Nebraska, including a 62-yard punt return for a score to tie the game late in the fourth quarter; and he touched the ball three different ways and scored twice in wins over Maryland and Youngstown State. He made a miraculous, 28-yard catch on a fourth down situation when MSU trailed Michigan by 16 late in the game, keeping alive a touchdown drive in the Spartan’s comeback win.
• All-Purpose: 1,178 yards (130.9 average per game)
• Receiving: 37 receptions, 715 yards, five touchdowns (79.4 average per game)
• Rushing: six rushes, 42 yards, one touchdown (seven average per attempt)
• Kick Return: eight kick returns, 208 yards (26 average per attempt)
• Punt Return: 10 punt returns, 213 yards, two touchdowns (23.7 average per game)
Kyren Williams Sophomore running back / return specialist
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Independent, 9-1 overall)
Kyren Williams is a workhorse running back who also lines up at slot receiver, he leads Notre Dame in rushing, scoring and punt returns; is second in total receptions; and sees spot play on kickoff returns. A rare underclassman captain at Notre Dame, Williams is 14th in the nation in all-purpose yards per game (138), and emerged as a force since mid-season with 829 all-purpose yards and nine touchdowns in Notre Dame’s past five games. He touched the ball 24 times and scored twice against Virginia Tech, touched the ball 32 times three different ways and scored twice in a win over USC, touched the ball 25 times three different ways and scored the winning touchdown on a 93-yard run against North Carolina, and touched the ball 28 times four different ways and scored twice in a win over Navy.
• All-Purpose: 1,327 yards (132.7 average per game)
• Rushing: 174 rushes, 872 yards, 10 touchdowns (87.2 average per game)
• Receiving: 36 receptions, 308 yards three touchdowns (30.8 average per game)
• Punt Return: 11 rushes, 118 yards (10.7 average per attempt)
• Kick Return: one kick return, 29 yards (29 average 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 winner and his family will be honored on Mar. 8, 2022, at the annual Paul Hornung Award Ceremony at The Galt House Hotel in downtown Louisville. For banquet tickets, contact Julie Howell at 502-587-6742 or JHowell@Louisvillesports.org.
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.
• 2020: DeVonta Smith of Alabama topped the nation in receiving yards and yards after catch, and averaged 24 yards per punt return leading the Crimson Tide to the national championship. He scored touchdowns rushing, receiving and returning punts and was a gunner on punt coverage.
• 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.
Below are past winners and finalists who have made their mark in the NFL:
• Ameer Abdullah* RB; Nebraska / Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings
• Joe Adams WR; Arkansas / Carolina Panthers
• Antonio Andrews WR; Western Kentucky / Tennessee Titans
• Dri Archer RB; Kent State / Pittsburgh Steelers
• Tavon Austin RB; West Virginia / St. Louis, Los Angeles Rams, Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, Jacksonville Jaguars
• Saquon Barkley* RB; Penn State / New York Giants
• Odell Beckham Jr* WR; LSU / New York Giants, Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Rams
• Lynn Bowden, Jr.* WR; Kentucky / Miami Dolphins
• Brandon Boykin CB; Georgia / Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens
• Randall Cobb* WR; Kentucky / Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans
• D’Wayne Eskridge* WR; North Carolina / Seattle Seahawks
• Travis Etienne* RB; Clemson / Jacksonville Jaguars
• Clyde Edwards-Helaire* RB; LSU / Kansas City Chiefs
• Marcus Green WR; Louisiana-Monroe / Philadelphia Eagles
• Marion Grice RB; Arizona State / Arizona Cardinals
• KJ Hamler WR; Penn State / Denver Broncos
• N’Keal Harry* WR; Arizona State / New England Patriots
• Nyheim Hines* RB; NC State / Indianapolis Colts
• Myles Jack* LB; UCLA / Jacksonville Jaguars
• Adoree’ Jackson* CB; USC / Tennessee Titans
• LaMichael James RB; Oregon / Miami Dolphins, San Francisco 49ers
• Jeremy Kerley WR; TCU / San Francisco 49ers, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills
• Joel Lanning LB; Iowa State / Dallas Cowboys
• Marqise Lee* WR; USC / Jacksonville Jaguars, New England Patriots
• Johnny Manziel QB; Texas A&M / Cleveland Browns
• Owen Marecic DB; Stanford / Cleveland Browns
• Christian McCaffrey* RB; Stanford / Carolina Panthers
• Ty Montgomery* RB; Stanford / Green Bay Packers, Baltimore Ravens, New York Jets, New Orleans Saints
• Rondale Moore* WR; Purdue / Arizona Cardinals
• Marcus Murphy RB; Missouri / New Orleans Saints, Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers
• Robert Nkemdiche* DL; Ole Miss / Arizona Cardinals, Miami Dolphins, Seattle Seahawks
• Jabrill Peppers* DB; Michigan / Cleveland Browns, New York Giants
• Dante Pettis* WR; Washington / San Francisco 49ers
• Joe Reed* WR; Virginia / Los Angeles Chargers
• DeVonta Smith* WR; Alabama / Philadelphia Eagles
• Shaq Thompson* LB; Washington / Carolina Panthers
• Kadarius Toney* WR; Florida / New York Giants
• Dede Westbrook* WR; Oklahoma / Jacksonville Jaguars
*Currently active in NFL