Two of the six most versatile college football players are now Carolina Panthers. Brandon Boykin (2011) and Shaq Thompson (2014) are both recipients of the Paul Horning Award, which "recognizes and rewards versatile, high-level performers in major college football."
The award was created in 2010 to celebrate Louisville standout, Paul Hornung, who is widely regarded "the most versatile player in the history of college and pro football." Hornung was the 1956 Heisman Trophy winner and was the #1 selection in the NFL drat the following year. He went on to become the NFL's MVP in 1961, a 2-time Pro Bowler & 2-time First-Team All-Pro, and is a member of both the NFL and College Hall of Fames.
Hornung played about every position imaginable in college. He was an All-American quarterback, who kicked field goals, punted, returned kickoffs, and played defensive back as well. In 1960, Hornung racked up 13 rushing and 2 receiving touchdowns. He also had 86 points as a field goal kicker that year for the Green Bay Packers.
In 2011, Brandon Boykin became the second winner of the award. Described as "bona fide star on defense and special teams and an impact player on offense," Boykin had two rushing touchdowns, a receiving TD, and one punt return touchdown. He also had 3 INTs and 55 tackles (11 for a loss) as a starting defensive back.
Boykin, who just signed a 1-year contract with the Carolina Panthers, joins 2014 Hornung winner, Shaq Thompson. Carolina's 2015 1st Round selection won the award for being "one of college football’s most prolific two-way players." Thompson led the nation in fumble recoveries (4) as a linebacker, scored six touchdowns and averaged 10 yards per carry as a running back. He also had a sack, an INT, and 80 tackles that season.
Boykin and Thompson had batted around the possibility of the two Hornung winners becoming teammates before his visit Monday. Boykin, it's reported, wanted to join the Panthers, and from the quickness of his signing Monday, it looks Carolina has high hopes for him at nickel corner.
Boykin was a casualty of the odd Chip Kelly off-season of trades, where he shipped off LeSean McCoy, traded for Sam Bradford, and signed Demarco Murray to a big free agency deal. Kelly traded Boykin, a former 4th round pick who had 6 INTs in 2013, to the Pittsburgh Steelers for a 5th round pick. Boykin had trouble cracking the Steelers roster, but did find more playing time in the Steelers late-season playoff push.
This is a Dave Gettleman signature deal, resembling the Mike Mitchell signing of 2012. Gettleman described Boykin as "a versatile player", who is "athletic, smart, instinctive, tough, and has quality ball skills." Boykin is a guy who found himself searching for a spot on an organization with stability, and surrounded by top-defensive talent and coached by some of the best in the league, will add depth to Carolina's secondary. This is typical Gettleman using free agency to set up the draft.
By the Professor, aka Tony Dunn