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The Golden Boy

February 24, 1986|BOB OATES | Times Staff Writer

"He's got me so interested in horses that I've bought eight of my own," McGee said. "I may enter one of them--a colt named Eight Arrows--in the Kentucky Derby. In my first seven races, I've had five winners."

Hornung's opinion of that: "He's just been lucky."

Other Hornung opinions:

On Bill Hartack: "My favorite jockey. Bill never pulled a horse.

On Swaps: "My favorite horse. Swaps held five world records at the same time.

On Carroll Rosenbloom, formerly president of the Colts and then the Rams: "My favorite owner. You can't knock an owner who bets on his own team."

PERSPECTIVE

A fan of 1980s football, Hornung identifies a play in the Pro Bowl as the NFL's play of the season.

It was thrown for a touchdown by a Raider halfback, Marcus Allen.

"As a passer, Marcus is as good as I was," Hornung said. "And he's a better runner."

The others who attempt to throw halfback passes these days, including Walter Payton, don't fake the run properly, Hornung says.

"Walter and those guys slow down too soon and retreat too fast," he said. "Marcus does it just right. He's the best halfback passer since the single wing."

Hornung was talking about his own best play, one that made him famous.

"It's the most neglected play in football today," he said. "Teams like the Raiders should use it all the time. They think it's a surprise gimmick play, but it isn't. It's a game-plan play.

"In one series at Philadelphia (in the early '60s) we ran it on every down. It was a regular-season game, but Coach Lombardi thought we needed work on the halfback option. So we ran it for about 65 yards. I mean I was out there throwing or running on six or seven consecutive plays until we scored."

Otherwise, how good was Hornung? Looking back, how does he compare with other football players?

The record shows that he was unique in many respects:

He is the most prolific NFL scorer the game has known, the only player who ever scored 176 points in one season. In 1960, in a 12-game schedule, he kicked 15 field goals and scored 15 touchdowns, adding 41 extra points.

He is the most decorated football player of all time, the only one who has earned all this:

--NFL MVP twice (1960-61).

--NFL championship game MVP in 1961.

--NFL's first draft choice of 1957.

--College Football Hall of Fame.

--Pro Football Hall of Fame.

--Heisman Trophy (as a member of a 2-8 Notre Dame team in 1956).

He's the only player from a losing team to win the Heisman since it was first awarded to Jay Berwanger of Chicago in 1935.

He was the only quarterback to win it in the 15 years between Johnny Lujack in 1947 and Terry Baker in 1962.

Hornung was perhaps the best all-around football player ever. Consider:

--At both Notre Dame and Green Bay, he successfully played all three backfield positions, quarterback, halfback and fullback, excelling as runner, passer, receiver and blocker. He was the blocker for a Hall of Fame fullback, Jim Taylor.

--Hornung also punted, kicked off and kicked field goals.

--At Notre Dame he returned punts and kickoffs.

--A 60-minute player, he also played safety at Notre Dame, where he was second in total tackles one season.

--Hornung alone has made the College Hall of Fame as a quarterback and the Pro Hall of Fame as a running back.

A showman, he was also the first to showboat after touchdowns. By the 1980s, spiking and dancing in the end zone had become tiresome, but in the 1960s it was a novelty when, following a touchdown at Chicago, Hornung threw the football high into the stands at Wrigley Field.

Chicago Coach George Halas, livid, shouted: "You'll pay for that, young man."

Green Bay Coach Lombardi, grinning, said: "Don't worry, I'll pay for it."

Kramer, summing up Hornung's career in his most recent book, "Distant Replay," put it this way:

"Paul was, really, the only player we had in Green Bay who came in a superstar and left a superstar."

The Golden Boy also came and left a playboy. Former Chicago linebacker Bill George, who drew Hornung as a roommate one week in the era when the Pro Bowl was an L.A. institution, was asked what it was like to room with a legend.

"I never saw him," George said. "Haven't seen anything but Paul's luggage. I roomed with his luggage all week."

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