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Justin Thomas’ elite company includes Hornung, Unseld, Cowens

October 6, 2017 FieldsColumn


Seneca alum Wes Unseld was NBA MVP (and Rookie of the Year) for the 1968-69 season with the Baltimore Bullets.

BY MIKE FIELDS (Oct. 6, 2017)

Justin Thomas was the best golfer on the planet this past season. He won 5 times, including his first major title (PGA Championship), led the money list with nearly $10 million (not counting the $10 million bonus that came with winning the Fed Ex Cup), and the St. Xavier graduate was named PGA Tour Player of the Year.

Paul Hornung, a Flaget grad, was NFL MVP in 1961 while leading the Green Bay Packers to the NFL championship.

Not many Kentucky high school athletes go on to be crowned the best in their sport on the professional level. Thomas is in pretty exclusive company that includes:

  • Paul Hornung, a multi-sport star at Flaget in the early 1950s, won NFL MVP honors in 1961 and led the Green Bay Packers to the NFL championship. (Hornung also won the Heisman Trophy as a college standout at Notre Dame.)
  • Wes Unseld, who led Seneca to the Sweet Sixteen title in 1963 and 1964, was named NBA MVP (and Rookie of the Year) for the 1968-69 season with the Baltimore Bullets.
  • Dave Cowens of Newport Catholic starred for the Boston Celtics in the 1970s. He was NBA MVP for the 1972-73 season after being Rookie of the Year two years earlier.
  • Shaun Alexander, a star running back at Boone County and Alabama, was the NFL’s MVP in 2005 and led the Seattle Seahawks to Super Bowl XL.

The Kentucky high school alum to make the biggest impact in athletics, however, was Muhammad Ali. He was known as Cassius Clay when he was a student at Louisville Central in the late 1950s, and when he won a gold medal in boxing at the 1960 Olympics. As a pro, he won the heavyweight title three times. Because of his accomplishments inside the ring and his political stands outside it, Ali was regarded as one of the most significant athletes of the 20th century.

Louisville Central’s Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay) was the most famous and significant Kentucky high school alum in athletics.


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