The Paul Hornung Award

Three Offensive Stars/Return Specialists, One Two-Way Player Named Paul Hornung Award Finalists

Players Represent Power Five Conferences Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and ACC

Louisville, Ky. – November 9, 2017 – Three offense stars who are prolific return specialists and a stalwart middle linebacker who spots plays at quarterback and special teams have been named finalists for the eighth annual Paul Hornung Award, presented by Texas Roadhouse to the most versatile player in major college football. Chosen as finalists by a 17-member Selection Committee are: Saquon Barkley (Penn State), Nyheim Hines (NC State), Joel Lanning (Iowa State), and Dante Pettis (Washington).

So far this season, the four Paul Hornung Award finalists have combined for 3,225 all-purpose yards, 33 touchdowns five different ways, and 94 tackles; they represent four Power Five Conferences – Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and the ACC.

The announcement was made today by the Louisville Sports Commission, owners and operators of the Award, along with football legend and Louisville native Paul Hornung. The 17-person Paul Hornung Award National Selection Committee chose the finalists, with fans generating the 18th vote online. The 2017 Paul Hornung Award winner will be chosen from among the finalists and announced Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017.

Fan voting for the winner, powered by Texas Roadhouse, opens today at and will count as the 18th vote. Fans can vote once every 24 hours for their favorite among the four finalists.

“I’m impressed by the way our finalists are willing to do whatever it takes to help their teams win football games,” Hornung said. “They perform at a high level on offense, defense and special teams, and are outstanding team leaders.”

Nicknamed The Golden Boy, Hornung was a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback at Notre Dame in 1956 and the NFL’s Most Valuable Player 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. He set an NFL single-season scoring record for the champion Green Bay Packers in 1961 that stood for 46 years.

The skills of the 2017 Paul Hornung Award finalists will be on display the rest of the regular season as Iowa State faces Oklahoma State, Kansas State, and Baylor; NC State faces Boston College, UNC, and Wake Forest; Penn State takes on Maryland and Rutgers; and Washington battles Stanford, Washington State, and Utah for a spot in the Pac-12 Championship game.

Saquon Barkley, Running Back / Return Specialist

Junior, Penn State Nittany Lions (7-2, 4-2 conference)

Barkley earned the Paul Hornung Award Honor Roll four times this season. Primarily a running back who also lines up at slot receiver, wildcat quarterback, and returns kicks, Barkley is second in the nation in all-purpose yards with 195.6 per game and has accounted for 15 touchdowns four different ways – rushing (9), receiving (3), kickoff return (2), and passing (1). He set a Penn State record with 358 all-purpose yards on 43 touches in a last-second win at Iowa, returned opening kickoffs for touchdowns against Indiana and Ohio State, and scored three touchdowns against Michigan. Barkley showed breakaway speed with kickoff returns of 98 and 97 yards, an 80-yard touchdown run, and an 85-yard touchdown reception.

Rushing: 152 carries, 864 yards, nine touchdowns

Receiving: 39 receptions, 504 yards, three touchdowns

Kick Return: 13 returns, 393 yards, two touchdowns

Passing: two attempts, two completions, one touchdown, 36 yards


Nyheim Hines, Running Back / Return Specialist

Junior, NC State Wolfpack (6-3, 4-1 conference)

Hines earned the Paul Hornung Award Honor Roll three times this season. Hines is a workhorse out of the backfield who also returns punts, kickoffs, and is gunner on punt coverage. He accounted for 217 all-purpose yards, two touchdowns, a two-point conversion, and downed a punt on the two yard line in a home win over Louisville; came back the next week with 249 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns, and downed a punt inside the 5-yard line in a road win over Pitt. In an opening week loss to South Carolina, Hines lined up at several positions in the backfield, and accounted for 192 all-purpose yards on 26 touches rushing, receiving, and returning kicks and punts. He has been slowed with an ankle injury since the Notre Dame game on Oct. 28.

Rushing: 126 carries, 688 yards, six touchdowns

Receiving: 18 receptions, 94 yards

Punt Return: eight returns, 148 yards, one touchdown

Kick Return: 17 returns, 377 yards


Joel Lanning, Iowa State, Linebacker / Quarterback

Senior, Iowa State Cyclones (6-3, 4-2 conference)

Lanning earned the Paul Hornung Award Honor Roll three times this season. The starting middle linebacker who plays spot duty at quarterback and is a regular on special teams, Lanning is the Cyclones’ leading tackler with 10.4 tackles per game, the team’s third-leading rusher with 77 yards, three-of-three on fourth down conversion rushing and two-of-three passing for 25 yards. Lanning played 93 snaps in ISU’s road win over Texas Tech, and was the ironman when the Cyclones stunned Oklahoma in Norman with 78 total snaps: 57 plays on defense with eight tackles, a tackle for loss, a sack, and a fumble recovery; 13 plays at quarterback with eight rushes for 35 yards and two passes for 25 yards; eight plays on the punt team and field goal defense. His 10.4 tackles per game ranks second in the Big 12 and ninth in FBS.

Defense: 94 total tackles, 36 solo tackles, 2.5 sacks (20 yards), 6.5 tackles for loss (29 yards), one interception, one fumble recovery, two quarterback hurries, two PPUs

Rushing: 23 carries, 77 yards

Passing: three attempts, two completions, 25 yards


Dante Pettis, Wide receiver / return specialist

Junior, Washington Huskies (8-1, 5-1 conference)

Pettis earned the Paul Hornung Award Honor Roll once this season. Pettis is a dual threat wide-out / return specialist who tied the NCAA record by returning a punt for a touchdown in three consecutive games (Rutgers, Montana, Fresno State) and last week added a fourth punt return touchdown and a scoring reception in the No. 8-ranked Huskies win over Oregon. Against Oregon State, he caught 12 passes for 102 yards and three touchdowns, and has seven scoring receptions on the season. Pettis averages an astounding 21.7 yards per punt return, nearly 12 yards per reception and completed his only pass of the season for 36 yards. He also holds the NCAA career record with nine punt returns for touchdowns.

Receiving: 49 receptions, 571 yards, seven touchdowns

Punt Return: 19 returns, 412 yards, four touchdowns

Passing: one attempt, one completion, 36 yards

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. The winner and his family will be honored on March 7, 2018, at the annual Paul Hornung Award Banquet presented by KentuckyOne Health at the Galt House Hotel in downtown Louisville. For banquet tickets, contact Julie Howell at 502-587-6742 or

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. Previous winners by year are:

  • 2010: Owen Marecic of Stanford won the inaugural Paul Hornung Award as a two-way starter and All Pac-10 performer at fullback and honorable mention at linebacker;
  • 2011: Brandon Boykin of Georgia won the award as a lockdown, All-American defensiveback who also excelled on offense and special teams;
  • 2012: Tavon Austin of West Virginia won the award as one of two players in the nation with more than 500 yards in three different categories (rushing, receiving, and kick returns);
  • 2013: Odell Beckham Jr. of LSU won the award after finishing the season ranked second in the nation and first in the SEC with 2,222 all-purpose yards and 185.2 average yards per game;
  • 2014: Shaq Thompson of Washington won the award as a two-way player, earning first team All-America honors at linebacker and finishing as the Husky’s second-leading rusher at tailback;
  • 2015: Christian McCaffrey of Stanford won in 2015 after amassing 3,496 all-purpose yards with 1,847 rushing, 540 receiving and 1,109 return, breaking Barry Sanders record of 3,250 set in 1988; and
  • 2016: Jabrill Peppers of Michigan won the award playing 15 different positions, earning consensus All-America at linebacker, and becoming the first player ever to earn Big Ten Defensive Player of the year, Linebacker of the Year, and Specialist of the Year.

Texas Roadhouse signed on as presenting sponsor of the Paul Hornung Award in 2011 and will team with the Louisville Sports Commission to power fan voting again this season. Fan voting factors into the selection of the Paul Hornung Award finalists and winner.