WEEK 1: Six Players Secure Spots on the first Paul Hornung Award Honor Roll of the 2023 Season
Louisville, Ky. – Sept. 6, 2023 – Six players from four different conferences have landed positions on the Paul Hornung Award Honor Roll after the first two weekends of the 2023 college football season. Three of the six honorees hail from the Pac-12 Conference.
Together with 12 of its member awards, the National College Football Awards Association will package national players of the week this college football season. Travis Hunter, Colorado’s versatile wide receiver/cornerback, was selected as the Hornung Award’s National Player of the Week.
Joining Hunter on this season’s initial Honor Roll are Zachariah Branch, USC; Erik Brooks, Fresno State; Malik Fleming, Houston; Jayden McGowan, Vanderbilt; and Jalen McMillian, Washington.
The Paul Hornung Award presented by Texas Roadhouse, now in its 14th season, is given annually to the most versatile player in major college football by the Louisville Sports Commission. The Award pays tribute to the late football legend and Louisville native Paul Hornung. The winner and his family will be honored at the annual Paul Hornung Award dinner in downtown Louisville in March 2024.
College football fans nationwide have the opportunity to vote for their favorite player during the regular season and again during the bowl season. Online fan voting powered by Texas Roadhouse is now open HERE and factors into the selection of the finalists and winner.
Colorado sophomore WR/CB Travis Hunter was in on 138 plays from scrimmage (59 on offense, 79 on defense) in the Buffaloes’ 45-42 road victory over TCU. Offensively, Hunter had 11 pass receptions for 119 yards and produced six first downs. He was just as effective on defense with three tackles, made a key interception inside the five-yard line and deflected one pass. Hunter is the first player in 20 seasons to have 100 yards receiving and an interception in an FBS game.
USC freshman WR Zachariah Branch launched his college career with three touchdowns in the first two weeks of the season. In a 56-28 victory over San Jose State, Branch touched the ball in four different ways with four receptions for 58 yards and a touchdown, one rush for 12 yards, had a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and three punt returns for 66 yards. In USC’s 66-14 defeat of Nevada, he had one catch for 22 yards and a touchdown, two kickoff returns for 29 yards and a 12-yard punt return.
Fresno State senior WR Erik Brooks sparked the Bulldogs to a 39-35 come-from-behind win at Purdue. Brooks had nine receptions for 170 yards and two touchdowns and helped extend drives at key junctures of the game with four first-down catches. His 29-yard scoring reception tied the game early at 7-7. However, it was his 22-yard touchdown catch with 59 seconds on the clock that clinched the victory for the Bulldogs. Brooks also had a kickoff return for 35 yards and one punt return.
Houston senior DB Malik Fleming was a major factor in the Cougars’ 17-14 defeat of UTSA. His 48-yard punt return led to Houston’s first touchdown of the night. Then, in the third quarter, Fleming produced back-to-back pass interceptions. His second resulted in a 19-yard return to the UTSA 35, setting up the Cougars’ game-winning touchdown. Fleming contributed three solo tackles while helping limit UTSA to just four third-down conversions in 13 attempts.
Vanderbilt sophomore WR Jayden McGowan played a key role in the Commodores’ first two victories of the season. In a 35-28 win over Hawaii, he had six receptions for 72 yards, rushed twice for 11 yards and recorded a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Then, in Vandy’s 47-13 defeat of Alabama A&M, McGowan touched the ball four different ways with six catches for 70 yards, had one rush for six yards, two kickoff returns for 46 yards and two punt returns for nine yards.
Washington junior WR Jalen McMillian did a little bit of everything in the Huskies’ 56-19 victory over Boise State. Touching the football in four different ways, McMillian had eight receptions for 95 yards with two touchdown plays of nine and 38 yards. On the first play of the fourth quarter, McMillian took a direct snap from center and ran 19 yards for a touchdown. He completed one pass for nine yards that resulted in a first down and returned two punts for six yards.
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. Each week during the regular season, a panel of college football experts selects players for the Paul Hornung Award Honor Roll based on performance. A national selection committee comprised of 17 sports journalists and former NFL stars votes for the Hornung Award finalists and the winner, with fan voting powered by Texas Roadhouse comprising the 18th vote. Regional accounting firm Dean Dorton independently tabulates all votes.