Serving Kentucky's Schools and Student Athletes Since 1917

Paul Hornung’s winning senior year at Flaget

October 30, 2018 FieldsColumn

Print

Paul Hornung, top right, and his mom, bottom right, look over a sports scrapbook along with Flaget teammate Sherrill Sipes and his mom. (Courier-Journal photo)

BY MIKE FIELDS

Before he earned the nickname “Golden Boy,” before he won the Heisman Trophy at Notre Dame, before he was the first overall pick in the NFL draft, before he helped the Green Bay Packers win four NFL championships (including the first Super Bowl), before he was voted NFL MVP, before he was inducted into the college and pro football halls of fame, Paul Hornung was a multi-sport high school star in Louisville.

And to this day, Hornung is as proud of his days at Flaget as anything he accomplished in his remarkable sporting life.

“Absolutely. My memories of Flaget are still right up there,” the 82-year-old Hornung said in a recent telephone interview. “They rank as high in my mind as anything that ever happened to me.”

First-team all-state in 1952.

Hornung recalled his senior year of high school (1952-53) as being “really special.”

He quarterbacked Flaget’s football team to a 9-1-1 record, and the Braves (who lost to Oak Ridge, Tn., and tied Chattanooga, Tn.) were recognized as state champs. He was first-team all-state, along with teammate, running back and best friend Sherrill Sipes.

Hornung also excelled on the basketball court. A 6-foot-2 scorer, he set a Louisville Invitational Tournament record with 31 points against Hindman, and a couple months later led Flaget to the Sweet Sixteen. He averaged 15 points for the season and was named second-team all-state.

Paulie Miller doubled as Flaget’s football and hoops coach before turning over the basketball reins to Jim Huter before the 1952-53 season.

“Paulie was a great coach,” Hornung said. “He motivated you and he stressed practicing hard all the time. It was a great experience playing for him.”

Hornung, who hailed from the Portland area of Louisville, also played baseball at Flaget. He was a good hitter and capable infielder, but he said “basketball and football were my two best sports.”

When colleges across the country came calling, Hornung wasn’t surprised.

Paul Hornung scored an LIT record 31 points against Hindman in 1953. (Courier-Journal photo)

“Playing different sports gives you an opportunity to spread out your talents and show coaches what kind of athlete you are,” he said. “My versatility really helped me. I could’ve gone to any school in the United States.”

Kentucky made him an enticing offer.

“Bear Bryant wanted me to play football, but he said I could play basketball, too. He told me (Adolph) Rupp wanted me to come out. That was something, giving a youngster an opportunity to play football and basketball there.”

But the allure of Notre Dame won out, with Hornung and Sipes going to South Bend together.

Hornung became a football star. As a junior he finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy balloting. As a senior he won the award even though the Fighting Irish finished 2-8. He led Notre Dame in seven statistical categories, shining as a quarterback, safety, kick returner and place-kicker.

Hornung also played basketball one season for the Irish, and he later parlayed his court skills (and his football fame with the Packers) into a memorable stint suiting up for three games against the Globetrotters in 1962.

“I had watched them here in Louisville when I was a kid, so to get the opportunity to play against them was a terrific thrill,” he said. “The (Globetrotters’) owner Abe Saperstein offered me $2,000, which was a lot of money in those days. That was a tremendous time in my life.”

Paul Hornung’s name still has cachet. It’s attached to an award that goes annually to a versatile, high-performing college football player, and another award that goes annually to the best high school football player in Kentucky.

Flaget High School no longer exists. It closed in 1974, and Hornung mourned its passing.

“It was the school everybody in the West end wanted to go,” he said. “They had great sports teams, great coaches and great athletes. I’m proud to have been part of it all.”

Print