Please take time on this Memorial Day to stop your daily lives to remember the fallen service men and women of the United States. We are the great nation we are because of their sacrifice.
As a die-hard Packers fan perhaps you are probably aware of the Green Bay Packers one and only “Unofficial Retired Number”. Then again perhaps you’re not.
On July 18, 2015 Brett Favre will officially join five other Green Bay Packers greats when his number 4 will be officially retired. The others who have been so honored are Tony Canadeo whose number (3) was retired in 1952 immediately after his final season, preceded by Don Hutson (14) in 1951, and followed by Bart Starr (15) in 1973, Ray Nitschke (66) in 1983, and Reggie White (92) in 2005. None of these numbers will ever be used again by any Green Bay Packers player.
But there is another number which is de facto retired. A number that has not been seen on the playing field for more than 25 years.
That number belonged to Paul Hornung. Number 5. The Golden Boy. One-half of Vince Lombardi’s famous “Thunder and Lightning” backfield of the 1960’s.
Even at this time of year with a bulging ninety-man roster the legendary Hornung’s number remains in mothballs.
The last player listed to wear #5 was forgettable kicker Curtis Barrow in the 1988 season. Prior to that it briefly belonged to a young quarterback named Don Majkowski. Majkowski wore the number only one year before opting for his more familiar #7. Prior to Majkowski scant few players wore the number which briefly included Vince Ferragamo in 1986.
But it was Paul Hornung that will always be remembered as #5. He wore the number from 1957 – 1962, it went unused in 1963 when Hornung was suspended for gambling, and then again from 1964 -1966.
The Golden Boy Set Multiple Records
Hornung was a legend even in his own time. Born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, Hornung was a well-rounded student and outstanding athlete at Bishop Benedict Joseph Flaget High School in Louisville. He lettered four years each in football, basketball, and baseball. He was recruited by Bear Bryant at that time the head coach at Kentucky in nearby Lexington, but chose to attend Notre Dame instead. He is the first player in pro football history to win the Heisman Trophy (1956), be selected as the first overall selection in the NFL Draft (1957), win the NFL most valuable player award (1961), and be inducted into both the professional (1986) and college football halls of fame (1985). In addition he proceeded Favre by being inducted into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame in 1975. He was selected as a member of the NFL all- time team of the 1960’s.
He came to Green Bay as a quarterback out of Notre Dame where he also starred in basketball. He gave up basketball to concentrate on football and his studies and ended up graduating Notre Dame with a degree in business.
In Green Bay Paul was a three-time All-Pro (1959 – 1961) and a mainstay out of the backfield that he shared with fellow HOF players Jim Taylor and Bart Starr. Hornung and Taylor formed the nucleus of Coach Vince Lombardi’s signature play ‘The Packers Sweep’. That team would win four World Championships under Lombardi as well as the first Super Bowl. The second Super Bowl would be won the year after Hornung left the team in the expansion draft for the New Orleans Saints. A pinched nerve in his neck prevented him from ever suiting up for the Saints.
Since 2010 an award named in Hornung’s honor is given out by the Louisville Sports Commission to the most versatile college football player in the nation. The 2014 award was given out to Shaq Thompson, University of Washington (S, LB and RB). The previous season it was won by Odell Beckham, Jr. (RB, RS).
Hornung’s NFL Scoring Record Stood for 46 Years
Hornung was also the Packers place kicker for much of the time he was with the team. Hornung led the league in scoring for three straight seasons from 1959-61. It was during the 1960 season, the last with just 12 games, that he set an all-time record of 176 points (15 touchdowns, 15 field goals, 41 extra points). Hornung also passed for two additional touchdowns that year which did not add to his point-scoring total. That record stood until the 2006 season, when running back LaDainian Tomlinson of the San Diego Chargers broke the record with 180 points by scoring his 30th touchdown on December 17, giving him four points more than Hornung’s record with two games to play – however it was Tomlinson’s 14th game compared to Hornung’s 12 games.
Hornung’s Number Unofficially Retired
It is not widely known that Paul Hornung’s number 5 was unofficially retired by the Packers at its’ annual press party on July 10, 1967. To date there has not been an official ceremony in his honor to have his number added to the south end zone wall of retired numbers at Lambeau Field.
So that begs the question: If the team is not going to use his #5 number again, and it is for all intents and purposes retired anyway, why not make the honor official and place his number on the south end-zone wall with the other honorees?
It is my view that is exactly what should be done for the soon-to-be 80-year-old. And the sooner the better.
The Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame is operated by a separate entity and not directly by the team. An official number retirement ceremony would be under the jurisdiction of the Green Bay Packers. The obvious person to initiate such an honor would be team president Mark Murphy. Mr. Murphy is widely known to be very sensitive to the wishes of the team fans.
If you feel like I do that Paul Hornung deserves his number officially retired there is something that you can personally do to help right this wrong.
Drop Mr. Murphy a line expressing your views:
Mark Murphy, President
Green Bay Packers
1265 Lombardi Avenue
Green Bay, Wisconsin 54304
It is common sense move that is long overdue for one of the Green Bay Packers all-time greats.
How fitting would it be to have number 5 join number 4 on that south end zone facade?
Like I said, the sooner the better.——————
Jeff Albrecht grew up just north of Green Bay and was lucky enough to attend some of the Lombardi Era classic games, like the 1962 championship and the Ice Bowl. Jeff went on to play HS football in the Green Bay area and College ball at UW - Stevens Point. Jeff is retired but still does some writing for his local paper. Jeff is a writer with AllGreenBayPackers.com and you can follow him on twitter at @pointerjeff .