Five Offensive Players / Returns Specialists Named 2018 Paul Hornung Award Finalists
Award Presented by Texas Roadhouse; Goes to the Most Versatile Player in Major College Football
Louisville, Ky. – November 8, 2018 – Four standout wide receivers and a workhorse running back who log double-duty as return specialists have been named finalists. The ninth annual Paul Hornung Award is presented by Texas Roadhouse to the most versatile player in major college football. Chosen as finalists by a 17-member Selection Committee are: Marcus Green (Louisiana-Monroe), KJ Hamler (Penn State), N’Keal Harry (Arizona State), Connor Heyward (Michigan State) and Rondale Moore (Purdue).
The five Paul Hornung Award finalists represent the Big Ten, Pac-12 and Sun Belt and have combined for 5,511 all-purpose yards and 38 touchdowns receiving, rushing, and returning punts and kicks.
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 2018 Paul Hornung Award winner will be chosen from among the finalists and announced Wed., Dec. 5, 2018.
Fan voting for the winner, powered by Texas Roadhouse, opens today and continues through Dec. 3, 2018, at paulhornungaward.com and will count as the 18th vote. Fans can vote once every 24 hours for their favorite among the five finalists.
“It’s impressive 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 2018 Paul Hornung Award finalists will be on display the rest of the regular season in tough conference games as Michigan State tangles with Ohio State and Rutgers; Purdue faces Big Ten West foes Minnesota, Wisconsin and rival Indiana; Arizona State goes against UCLA and in-state rival Arizona; Penn State battles Wisconsin and Maryland; and Louisiana Monroe faces South Alabama and rival Louisiana Lafayette.
Marcus Green, Wide Receiver / Return Specialist
Senior, 5-8, 191 lbs.
Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks (5-4, 3-2 conference)
Senior wide receiver / return specialist Marcus Green, known for breakaway speed and big plays, has 17 plays of 20+ yards; four scoring plays of 69+ yards; receptions of 80, 79, 49 and 44 yards; a long run of 60 yards; and a punt return of 71 yards. He ranks third in the Sun Belt with 1,108 all-purpose yards, and is second in yards per reception (19.1) and touchdowns catches (seven). Green had 198 all-purpose yards and a punt return for a score against Ole Miss, touched the ball four different ways for 178 all-purpose yards and a score against Coastal Carolina, and had 159 all-purpose yards and touchdown receptions of 69 yards and 80 yards in the Warhawks’ upset win over Georgia Southern. Green earned the Paul Hornung Weekly Honor Roll for his performances against Coastal Carolina and Georgia Southern.
Rushing: 13 attempts, 109 yards (long 60)
Receiving: 36 receptions, 688 yards, seven touchdowns
Punt Return: three returns, 87 yards (71 long), one touchdown
Kick Return: 11 returns, 224 yards (35 long)
KJ Hamler, Wide Receiver / Return Specialist
Freshman, 5-9, 173 lbs.
Penn State Nittany Lions, (6-3, 3-3 conference)
Redshirt freshman speedster KJ Hamler has five games with more than 100 all-purpose yards: Pitt (145), Ohio State (195), Michigan State (123), Indiana (120) and Iowa (188). On the season, he has recorded 10 plays longer than 30 yards rushing, receiving, returning kicks and punts, including a 92-yard catch and run for a score against Ohio State, 32-yard run (Pitt), 67-yard kickoff return (Iowa) and 33-yard punt return (Kent State). He is third in the Big Ten with 1,118 all-purpose yards (124.2 per game), leads the conference and is fifth in the nation in combined return yards (569), and is third in Big Ten in yards-per-reception (18.46) and third in average yards per kick return (26.9). Hamler earned the Paul Hornung Award Weekly Honor Roll for his performances against Pitt and Ohio State.
Rushing: two attempts, 32 yards, one touchdown
Receiving: 28 receptions, 517 yards, five touchdowns
Punt Return: 10 returns, 85 yards (33 long)
Kick Return: 18 returns, 484 yards (67 long)
N’Keal Harry, Wide Receiver / Return Specialist
Junior, 6-4, 216 lbs.
Arizona State Sun Devils, (5-4, 3-3 conference)
Junior big play receiver / return specialist N’Keal Harry, who also lines up at wildcat quarterback, ranks nationally in the top 20 and second in the Pac-12 in receiving yards (828), receiving yards per game (92), receiving touchdowns (9) and third in receptions per game (6.1). He is averaging a whopping 22.2 yards per punt return and 110.7 all-purpose yards per game and has scored touchdowns rushing, receiving and returning punts. In the Sun Devils’ two recent wins against Utah and USC, Harry caught 13 passes for 256 yards and five touchdowns, including three scores against the Utes. He made a spectacular, one-handed catch fully extended on his back for a first down against the Trojans and has played 606 snaps on the season, 10th among Power Five wide receivers.
Rushing: six attempts, 11 yards, one touchdown
Receiving: 55 receptions, 828 yards, nine touchdowns
Punt Return: seven returns, 157 yards, one touchdown
Connor Heyward, Running Back / Return Specialist
Sophomore, 6-0, 229 lbs.
Michigan State Spartans (6-3, 4-2 conference)
A workhorse out of the backfield who also lines up at slot receiver, catches and throws passes and returns kickoffs, sophomore Connor Heyward has 103 touches on the season for 758 all-purpose yards and five touchdowns. He had a breakout game and earned the Paul Hornung Award Weekly Honor Roll in a win over Maryland with a kickoff return, a reception and 15 carries for 208 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns, sealing a win with an 80-yard score. Heyward opened the season with two scoring runs in a 38-31 win over Utah State, including the game-winner with two minutes to play. He added 100 all-purpose yards against Indiana, 15 carries against Central Michigan, and had 155 all-purpose yards, including a 36-yard pass, in the Spartans’ win over Penn State. Heyward averages 23 yards per kickoff return.
Rushing: 70 attempts, 358 yards, five touchdowns
Receiving: 22 catches, 135 yards
Kick Return: 10 returns, 229 yards
Passing: 1-1 for 36 yards
Rondale Moore, Wide Receiver / Return Specialist
Freshman, 5-9, 175 lbs.
Purdue Boilermakers (5-4, 4-2 conference)
True freshman stand-out Rondale Moore, who leads the Big Ten and is third nationally with 1,537 all-purpose yards (170.8 per game), made his presence known in his first college game by setting a Purdue record with 313-all-purpose yards and two touchdowns in the Boilermakers’ opener against Northwestern. He quickly became part of the opponents’ defensive game plan, and still earned the Paul Hornung Award Weekly Honor Roll for his performances against top 20-ranked Boston College and Ohio State. He recorded 252-all-purpose yards and two scores in Purdue’s upset of no. 2 Ohio State, and touched the ball four different ways and scored twice in Purdue’s upset of Boston College. He leads the nation and Big Ten with 8.2 receptions per game and was named a semi-finalist for the Maxwell Award.
Rushing: 11 attempts, 163 yards, one touchdown (76 long)
Receiving: 74 receptions, 833 yards, seven touchdowns (70 long)
Punt Return: 10 returns, 82 yards (24 long)
Kick Return: 24 returns, 459 yards (48 long)
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, 2019, at the annual Paul Hornung Award Banquet presented by Jewish Hospital Sports Medicine 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.
Previous Paul Hornung Award winners by year:
- 2017: Saquon Barkley of Penn State won the award as an electrifying All-American running back who lined up at slot and wildcat quarterback, and returned kicks and punts;
- 2016: Jabrill Peppers of Michigan won the award by playing 15 different positions on defense, offense and special teams, and earning first team All-America at linebacker;
- 2015: Christian McCaffrey of Stanford won the award after breaking the NCAA record for all-purpose yards, finishing with 3,864;
- 2014: Shaq Thompson of Washington won the award as a two-way player, earning first team All-American honors at linebacker and finishing as the Husky’s second-leading rusher at tailback;
- 2013: Odell Beckham Jr. of LSU won the award after finishing 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 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);
- 2011: Brandon Boykin of Georgia won the award after excelling on defense, offense and special teams; and
- 2010: Owen Marecic of Stanford won the inaugural Paul Hornung Award as a two-way starter and All Pac-10 performer at fullback and linebacker.
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. College football fans nationwide will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite player during the regular season and again during the bowl season. For more information and to vote, go to www.louisvillesports.org/paul-hornung/award-poll/