The Packers Have an Unofficial Retired Number? Time to Make it Official

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?

Good question.

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 .

——————

  • Since ’61

    Jeff – thank you for this article and thank you for remembering the Vets. Paul Hornung was my first Packer hero. Watching him score 19 points in the Packer 37-0 1961 NFL Championship game victory over the NY Giants began my long distance Packer fanhood. We recently had a few articles on this site discussing the versatility of some of TTs draft picks. Paul Hornung defined versatility, at least on offense. He was a solid, powerful runner, a good pass receiver, he could throw the option pass, block like a guard for Jim Taylor and as you mentioned he was a reliable place kicker. When Paul officially retired Vince Lombardi stated that “no one else is going to wear #5 around here”, hence the unofficial retirement of the #5. Many of the Packer players from those early Lombardi years have been quoted saying that Paul was the team’s leader back then. There is no question in my mind that Paul’s #5 should be retired. It is well deserved and long overdue. He was a great football player and a great Packer in every sense of the word. GoPaulGo! Thanks, Since ’61

    • Nick Perry

      Well said Since ’61, I’ve often wondered why Hornings number wasn’t retired too.

  • TedTomsin

    Like Brett this guy obviously had liked to party and clearly made some bad decisions. I was too young to remember the glory years but all you mentioned about anything negative was that he was suspended for gambling in 1963. I am assuming it’s because of that as the reason his number is not officially retired. I do agree with you that if he was as good as everyone says that they need to retire the number while the man is still breathing. Like with Pete Rose, it’s time damnit!!

    All I remember of Horning was in his later years when he did all the Packers preseason games on TV in the 70’s. I swear the guy was boozed up some of those games. I remember the brutal honesty that came out of him at times of how bad some of those teams were. I already knew as a kid we were going to suck by how Hornung would talk about them. lol

    Personally I would like Brett to wait until he’s 80 to get his number retired but that’s just me.
    Ted

    P.S. Big shout out to all the men and women who served.

    • Since ’61

      Ted – I can assure you that Paul’s number not being retired has nothing to do with his suspension for gambling. It probably has more to do with the fact that he had a relatively short Packer career when compared with players from his era like Starr and Nitschke. Note, that his gambling did not keep him out out of either the Packer or NFL HOFs. Paul was undoubtedly a playboy but that was not considered a toxic issue in his day. He was a bachelor for a long time so he did nothing wrong in that respect. I’m not sure what you are referring to about his bad decisions (whatever that would mean anyway) but they are probably inaccurate assumptions on your part. I would recommend the book Golden Boy – Paul Hornung by William Reed as a good reference point for learning about Paul Hornung. Also, you will find plenty of references to Paul Hornung in many of the fine Vince Lombardi biographies that are available. It is unfortunate that you did not get to see him play. He was literally one of a kind and on the field he gave us everything he had. Thanks, Since ’61

      • TedTomsin

        All I know about Hornung is the stories of his fooling around with a ton of women, missing curfew and of course the gambling. That’s what I meant by bad decisions though fooling around with a ton of women if you have the opportunity isn’t really a bad thing when I think about it. If you say the reason for him not getting his number retired is probably due to not having a long enough career in Green Bay than that’s fine.

        Like I said I didn’t know him or see him play unfortunately. To be honest as a kid growing up in the 70’s (the gory years) I actually hated those guys of the 60’s. I hated them because that’s all anyone talked about was those guys. I wanted my current guys of the 70’s to be the heroes. Instead I had to wait until 1996 almost 30 years to have players to look up too. Today, I cut it way short and just idolize our GM. It’s easier that way now that I’m old.
        Ted

        • Since ’61

          Ted – appreciate you taking the time to provide feedback. I respect your position in terms of wanting the guys from the ’70s to be your heroes. It was a tough stretch for all Packers fans and I hope that we never go through a period like that again. I’m glad that TT is not our President because then he could not be the Packers GM and where would that leave us. Thanks, Since ’61

          • TedTomsin

            lol.. good point
            Ted

  • aaronqb

    I don’t think any number should be retired. I agree with Vic on packers.com. Honor the number in other ways than simply retiring it.

  • Tundraboy

    Just a formality. Icon. But thanks for pointing out. Must do it before Farvre. Must.. Anything else is not right. Paul, and Taylor while we’re at it. Did I miss anyone?

    • Ed Schoenfeld

      Curly Lambeau (Number 1).

      It’s pretty much been treated the same way Hornung’s number is — nobody gets it even though its not retired.

      But if you retire the number of every Packer who deserves it, you wouldn’t have enough jerseys available to field a team, at least not in training camp.

      • TedTomsin

        They could go with the three digit system. Just think all the people who would love to get no. 100.
        Ted

  • Jim Charne

    I suspect there has been no official retirement because of the gambling suspension. But Paul’s football career and performance on the field in Green Bay is certainly deserving of the honor.