EAST LANSING, Mich. – Michigan State sophomore running back Connor Heyward has been named one of five finalists for the Paul Hornung Award, which is given to the most versatile player in college football.
Heyward leads the Spartans in rushing (70 carries for 358 yards), rushing touchdowns (5), kick returns (10 for 229 yards) and all-purpose yards (722). He also ranks tied for third on the team with 22 receptions for 135 yards and third in scoring with 30 points (five TDs).
In the win over Maryland last weekend, Heyward ran for a career-high 157 yards and tied his career high with 15 carries and two rushing touchdowns. He scored on an 18-yard TD in the first quarter and on an 80-yard TD in the fourth quarter that put MSU on top 24-3; Heyward's 80-yard TD run was the longest of the season for MSU and the first Spartan rushing TD of at least 80 yards since 2014 (Delton Williams 80 yards vs. Eastern Michigan). Heyward also had a career-high 208 all-purpose yards (157 rushing, 49 kick return, 2 receiving), including a season-long 49-yard kickoff return to open the second half. Heyward's 157 rushing yards were the most ever by a Spartan against Maryland (previous: LJ Scott with 147 yards in 2016).
In MSU's 21-17 win at No. 8 Penn State on Oct. 13, Heyward compiled 79 all-purpose yards, including a 26-yard run on a fake punt that set up MSU's first TD scoring drive of the game. Later on that same drive, Heyward completed a 36-yard pass to Cam Chambers to make it first-and-goal for the Spartans.
A native of Duluth, Georgia, Heyward was named to the Pro Football Focus Big Ten Team of the Week for his performance against Central Michigan where he totaled 100 all-purpose yards (48 rushing, 36 kick return, 16 receiving) and scored on a 2-yard TD run in the third quarter against the Chippewas.
Heyward scored two rushing touchdowns, including the game-winning 13-yard score with two minutes left in the fourth quarter, over Utah State in the season opener.
The Paul Hornung Award finalists were chosen by a 17-member selection committee and in addition to Heyward, include Marcus Green (Louisiana-Monroe), KJ Hamler (Penn State), N'Keal Harry (Arizona State) and Rondale Moore (Purdue).
The finalists announcement was made Thursday by the Louisville Sports Commission, owners and operators of the award, along with football legend and Louisville native Paul Hornung. The 17-person Paul Hornung Award National Selection Committee chose the finalists, with fans generating the 18th vote online. The 2018 Paul Hornung Award winner will be chosen from among the finalists and announced Wednesday, Dec. 5.
Fan voting for the winner, presented by Texas Roadhouse, opens Thursday and continues through Dec. 3, 2018, at paulhornungaward.com and will count as the 18th vote. Fans can vote once every 24 hours for their favorite among the five finalists.
Nicknamed The Golden Boy, Hornung was a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback at Notre Dame in 1956 and the NFL's Most Valuable Player with the Green Bay Packers whose versatility earned him enshrinement in both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame. At Notre Dame, Hornung played every position in the offensive backfield, handled punting and placekicking duties, returned kickoffs, and started at safety on defense. He set an NFL single-season scoring record for the champion Green Bay Packers in 1961 that stood for 46 years.
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