Winner: Shaq Thompson
University of Washington’s Shaq Thompson, a gifted athlete who has played linebacker, running back, safety and special teams this season, was named winner of the fifth annual Paul Hornung Award, presented by Texas Roadhouse. The Louisville Sports Commission and Paul Hornung present the Award to the most versatile player in major college football.
“I’m very pleased for Shaq,” said UW Head Coach Chris Petersen. “This is an honor that he has earned on the field and off. For a player to perform at such a high level in so many different ways is so unusual and impressive. We’re grateful that all of his hard work has been recognized.”
Thompson was chosen as the Paul Hornung Award winner from among five finalists by a 16-member national Selection Committee comprised of sports journalists and retired NFL players and secured an additional first place vote from online fan voting. All votes were independently tabulated by regional accounting firm Dean Dorton, one of the largest accounting and advisory firms in Kentucky, with offices in Louisville and Lexington.
“It really hasn’t hit me,” Thompson said, when told of his selection. “It’s a great honor for me to be named the Paul Hornung Award winner. I had an opportunity to show my versatility on both sides of the ball this year and I’m just happy that I was able to accomplish all I did this season and be recognized for my efforts. ”
Thompson By The Numbers
A junior from Sacramento, Thompson was named first-team All-Pac-12 at linebacker and first team All-Pac-12 as the all-purpose/special teams player by the league’s coaches. He played in six games on offense, finishing the regular season as the second-leading rusher for the Huskies with 456 yards while also recording 56 yards receiving.
One of college football’s most prolific two-way players, Thompson shared the national lead for fumble recoveries with four and scored six touchdowns – two on offense and four on defense. For the 2014 season, he compiled 13 plays of 10 yards or more, four on defense and nine on offense. Of his 57 rushing attempts, 10 have gone for 10 yards or more. He averaged 42.5 all-purpose yards per game (rushing, receiving, interception and fumble return); nearly eight yards per carry; 14 yards per reception; and was fourth in total tackles, tied for the team lead in fumble recoveries and led the team in defensive return yards.
On defense, Thompson had 71 tackles, one interception return of 36 yards for a touchdown, forced four fumbles and recovered three fumbles with 184 returns yards and three touchdowns. Against California with the game tied at zero, he raced 100 yards on a fumble return to give the Huskies a lead they would not relinquish. Thompson played in six games on offense, recorded 512 total offensive yards, led the Huskies’ rushing three games and twice hit the century mark – 16 carries for 174 yards versus Colorado and 15 carries for 100 yards versus UCLA.
Thompson’s versatility was on full display in several other games. In a win over Illinois, he had a 36-yard interception return touchdown, a 52-yard fumble return touchdown, four tackles and carried the ball three times for 16 yards. He became the first Husky to score two defensive touchdowns in the same game. On Sept. 27 versus Stanford, he recorded his fourth touchdown of the season by stripping the Cardinal running back of the ball, picking it up and rumbling 32 yards for the touchdown. Thompson also forced a second half fumble, finished with seven tackles, one pass break-up and three carries on offense. A stalwart at linebacker for the Huskies, Thompson also played safety in that game where he, “tackled like a linebacker and covered like a defensive back,” according to Coach Petersen.
Shaq Thompson is a 2015 NFL Draft prospect.
Click here to view all photos from the 2015 Paul Hornung Award Banquet.
Four offensive stars who performed double duty on special teams and a two-way “runningbacker” were named finalists for the Fifth Annual Paul Hornung Award, presented by Texas Roadhouse and given annually to the most versatile player in major college football. The five players represent four power conferences: the Pac 12, Big 12, SEC and Big 10.
In 2014, the five Paul Hornung Award finalists accounted for 2,950 rushing yards, 1,121 receiving yards, 1,317 kickoff return yards, 512 punt return yards and 220 interception/fumble return yards. Reminiscent of Hornung during his playing days, the finalists demonstrated a knack for scoring, accounting for 48 total touchdowns six different ways – rushing, receiving, punt return, kickoff return, interception and fumble returns.
Nebraska running back and return specialist Ameer Abdullah ranked among the top 10 nationally in all-purpose yards per game (third), rushing touchdowns (fourth), scoring (seventh) and rushing yards per game (ninth). Abdullah rushed for better than 200 yards four times during the 2014 season, tying a Nebraska record. He also produced a pair of games with more than 300 all-purpose yards, making him the only player in the nation with two games with 300-plus all-purpose yards. Abdullah set a Nebraska record for career all-purpose yards (6,700), while ranking second in Big Ten history in career all-purpose yardage. He was the dominating factor for the Huskers in a 41-31 win over the Miami Hurricanes: 313 all-purpose yards, including 229 rushing yards and two scores on a career-high 35 carries. He added a three-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter and 81 yards on four kickoff returns to finish the night as Nebraska’s career all-purpose yardage leader. In the Cornhuskers win over Rutgers, Abdullah set a school record with 343 all-purpose yards.
TCU tailback and kick return specialist B.J. Catalon, was a huge part of the team’s rise to the top of the Big 12 standings and number five ranking in the College Football Playoffs. He led his team in all-purpose yards (910), touchdowns (12) and kick return yards. Catalon led the Horned Frogs with 144 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns in a 37-33 upset win against the number four-ranked Oklahoma Sooners when he carried the ball 11 times for 48 yards and a touchdown, caught a pass for 39 yards and a touchdown, and returned a kickoff return for 57 yards. The following week, he scored three times and recorded 213 all-purpose yards in a last-second loss at number five-ranked Baylor, 61-58. Catalon ran the ball 13 times for 48 yards and two touchdowns, caught two passes for 71 yards and returned a kickoff 94 yards for his third score of the game. Catalon was one of five active players with 1,500 career yards rushing (1,644) and 900 in kickoff returns (997). He was named to the All-Big 12 Academic team in 2013.
Missouri running back and punt/kickoff return specialist Marcus Murphy touched the ball 180 times in the 2014 season running, receiving and returning kickoffs and punts, and scored touchdowns in each of those categories. He carried the ball and returned a punt in every game, and caught a pass and returned a kickoff in 10 games. His season totals: 128 carriers for 607 yards, 20 receptions for 143 yards, 21 punt returns for 274 yards and 11 kickoff returns for 362 yards. Murphy’s breakout game came against Florida when he recorded 224 all-purpose years and three touchdowns – a five-yard reception, 96-yard kickoff return and 52-yard punt return. He averaged a workmanlike five yards per carry, seven yards per reception, 13 yards per punt return and 33 yards per kickoff return. He was the NCAA active leader in career return yards, and owns the Mizzou records for special teams touchdowns (seven) and the career return yards record with 2,686.
Stanford wide receiver and return specialist Ty Montgomery piled up 1,401 all-purpose yards, recording 23 carries for 146 yards and one touchdown, 60 receptions for 590 yards and three touchdowns, 12 punt returns for 238 yards and two touchdowns and 17 kickoff returns for 429 yards. He averaged 140.1 all-purpose yards per game in the 2014 season, recording two games of more than 200 all-purpose yards. He averaged 19.8 yards per punt return, 25.2 yards per kickoff return and 9.8 yards per reception. During week four of the season, Montgomery went up against Shaq Thompson and the Washington Huskies and accounted for 149 all-purpose yards and a touchdown in a 20-13 Pac-12 win on the road. Montgomery summed up the hard-fought win in the second quarter when he caught a two-yard pass, steamrolled several Husky defenders down the sideline and backpedalled the final five yards for a 17-yard score. Montgomery was first among FBS active leaders in combined kickoff and punt return yards with 2,732.