By ADAM PRUIETT
Northwest Florida Daily News
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FORT WALTON BEACH – The All Sports Association, Inc.’s 40th Annual Awards Banquet is starting to resemble a mini-Heisman Trophy ceremony or perhaps a little slice of quarterback heaven.
On hand as always will be Danny Wuerffel, the former Fort Walton Beach and University of Florida star quarterback who won the Heisman in 1996 and has an award named after him. The winner of this year’s Wuerffel Trophy is Tim Tebow, the Gators’ current superstar quarterback and the 2007 recipient of the Heisman.
And now it’s been announced that Paul Hornung, the legendary Notre Dame quarterback who won the Heisman in 1956 and went on to a Hall of Fame NFL career, will be the featured speaker at the already sold out Feb. 20 banquet at the Emerald Coast Conference Center.
“We at the All Sports Association are excited to have Paul Hornung, a real legend of the game, as our featured Banquet speaker this year,” All Sports Association President Mike Coupe’ said. “In and apart from his Hall of Fame and MVP career in the NFL, his winning of the Heisman for his accomplishments at Notre Dame means that we will now have three Heisman Trophy winners, from three different decades, in attendance.”
Although he was nicknamed the “Golden Boy,” Hornung was truly Mr. Versatility. He competed in an era when college football players often went both ways, and Hornung excelled at everything he did on the field. He could play quarterback, halfback, safety, kicker and punter, and he also returned kicks and punts.
In the NFL, after getting drafted first overall by Green Bay in 1957, he helped the Packers build their dynasty as a halfback and kicker under Vince Lombardi. He was a little over 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, which doesn’t sound impressive now, but “I was huge in those days.”
“If I had to say so myself, I would have been a helluva defensive player,” Hornung said in a Monday phone interview.
Hornung said he’ll be going to Las Vegas this week with Hall of Fame running back Gale Sayers for Super Bowl engagements. Hornung’s picking the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“They’re the strongest team both offensively and defensively,” he said, before later adding: “It’s a different kind of game. It’s unusually hard on football players that haven’t been in that situation. Pittsburgh, of course, has been there.”
But Hornung doesn’t think it’s going to be Steelers in a romp. He believes the game will feature more scoring than many think, primarily because of Arizona Cardinals’ receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
“Arizona, the way they’ve been playing, I don’t think there’s anyone stronger than Larry Fitzgerald,” Hornung said. “He’s the best player in pro football today, I think.”
Shalimar’s Jackie Burkett, who carved out an 11-year NFL career at linebacker, played against the Packers’ Hornung as a member of the Baltimore Colts and then was his teammate in 1967 with the newly founded New Orleans Saints. Hornung couldn’t play because of a pinched nerve in his neck, but Burkett remembers him fondly as an agreeable teammate who would swap stories on bus rides and never sought star treatment.
“He was just one of the guys,” said Burkett, an All Sports Association member. “For a star like he was, I’d say he was a very good guy.”