Four years later he won the Heisman, passing for 917 yards and running for another 420 while doubling on special teams as a kicker and return man. He became the only player from a losing team (2--8) to win the statue in its 67-year history.
Green Bay selected Hornung with the first pick in the 1957 NFL draft and he split time at running back and quarterback for two seasons. He was a forgettable player on a poor team. In '59, Vince Lombardi arrived and everything changed. He made Hornung, who by then weighed more than 220 pounds, the focal point of the Green Bay power sweep, utilizing his gliding speed and natural cutting instincts. Hornung scored an NFL record 176 points in '60 [LaDainian Tomlinson broke that with 186 points in 2006], and in '61 he was named league MVP as Lombardi's Packers won the first of five league titles in seven years.
"He was a great blocker, he could catch the ball, and he was a better runner close to the goal line than anybody I've ever seen," says Ron Kramer. "But he did a lot of other things for the team too. He kept [fullback] Jimmy Taylor in line when all Jimmy cared about was how many yards he got. He took all the s--- that Vinny dished out in practice, because he just could. Some guys Vinny had to treat differently, like Bart [Starr]. But Paul could take it, and Vinny knew that."
Of course the Golden Boy was more than a football player. He was a man who lived long nights, indulging a voracious appetite for excess. He was Namath before Namath. In David Maraniss's 1999 book, When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi, the late journalist Dick Schaap describes a week he spent with the Packers and Hornung in the autumn of 1961. "At three, he'd come home, mix a pitcher of martinis and drink martinis until six o'clock with [Ron] Kramer and the others. Then they'd go out to dinner, a group of players. Scotch before dinner. Wine with dinner. Brandy after dinner. Then back on scotch. Every day. I lost count by the time it had reached more than sixty just how many drinks he had in that week leading up to the Browns game. Also, he never went to bed before four in the morning, he never went to bed alone, and he never repeated himself."
The stories have the feel of mythology. "But they're all true," says McGee. "Those and a whole lot of others, probably worse. And Lombardi knew where all of us were at all times. But with Paul, especially, he didn't make a lot of noise, because he liked Paul, and Paul was such a money player."
In more ways than one. Hornung was suspended for the 1963 season by commissioner Pete Rozelle after admitting that he had bet on NFL games. The suspension is an ugly part of Hornung's legacy, yet in Hornung's mind it could have been much worse had he not stared down Rozelle in their meetings. "Rozelle had me, and I knew he had me," Hornung says. "But I told him, 'Pete, we both know that other guys are betting. I know who they are, and I am not answering questions about anybody else. But if I go to Washington [where a Senate subcommittee was investigating gambling] and raise my right hand, this whole league is in trouble.' " Hornung says he wasn't bluffing, and Rozelle blinked. Hornung took his suspension. Detroit Lions defensive tackle Alex Karras was also suspended. ("He was stupid," Hornung says. "They didn't have anything on him, but he confessed anyway.") It helped the league avoid a larger scandal.
Three years later Hornung was all but finished. A neck injury first sustained when Tom Brookshier of the Philadelphia Eagles drilled him in the 1960 NFL Championship Game was made worse when the Bears' Doug Buffone clotheslined him in the 10th game of the '66 season. Eight weeks later Hornung was the only Packer who didn't play in Super Bowl I. "Lombardi asked me if I wanted to go in for a few plays just to say I played," Hornung says. "I said, 'Nah.' " About a month later New Orleans took Hornung in the expansion draft. But he never played a down for the Saints; he retired before the season started.
MORE THAN 30 YEARS LATER HORNUNG SITS IN A booth at the Delta Restaurant and Lounge, an old-fashioned businessman's lunch joint in downtown Louisville. He orders a ham-steak sandwich—"With yellow mustard; make sure it's yellow, not brown," he barks good-naturedly at a waitress he calls Kid—and wolfs it down. Hornung has been eating at the Delta for years. "Same people, every day," he says. "In and out in half an hour, and they make a good little sandwich. Nothing fancy." A thirtysomething man dressed in a sharp business suit passes by. "My stockbroker," says Hornung. "I just switched to him a little while ago because he's young and likes to gamble, and so do I. The stock market. That's legal gambling for the Horn."
Money has never been a problem. Back in the late 1950s, when Hornung didn't know if his pro football career would last two seasons or 10, he sent all his paychecks home to a family friend, Henry Hoffmann, who began investing in real estate in the Louisville area. Hornung now owns a building with more than 600 apartments, ground leases on many businesses and, with Leonard Lyles, a former Baltimore Colts and San Francisco 49ers defensive back who also grew up in the west end, a shopping center. Along with the estate of his late friend and partner Frank Metts, Hornung is also part owner of Golden Foods/Golden Brands, a vegetable-and soybean-oil company in Louisville that Hornung says did more than $175 million in sales last year and counts Frito-Lay and McDonald's among its customers. Recently he had 2,000 Paul Hornung bobblehead dolls made, and much to his amazement, more than half of them have sold.