Multi-faceted in a variety of dimensions on and off the football field, Saquon Barkley was recognized Wednesday morning as the winner of the 2017 Paul Hornung Award.
Saquon Barkley’s invite for the Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York might have gotten lost, but at least another award committee got it right.
Recognizing the most versatile athlete in college football, Barkley was announced Wednesday morning as the winner of the 2017 Paul Hornung Award. Barkley will be honored with the award at the annual Paul Hornung Award Banquet in Louisville, Ky., on March 7.
“It is an honor to win an award like the Paul Hornung Award for the most versatile player in college football,” Barkley said via press release. “I am so appreciative of Mr. Hornung and the Louisville Sports Commission for selecting me for this very special honor. I have to give a lot of the credit to my teammates and coaches, they are the reason that I am in position to win this award and I could not have done it without them. I also want to thank our amazing fans at Penn State.”
Penn State’s star junior running back and kick returner led all Power Five conferences in 2017 with an average of 179.5 all-purpose yards per game. He totaled 1,134 yards rushing and another 594 receiving, combining to score 19 touchdowns on offense. Barkley excelled on special teams this season as well, embracing the role as the Nittany Lions’ primary return man for kickoffs. Bringing back at least one kick in all but two of PSU’s 12 games, Barkley totaled 426 return yards and scored two more TDs. His two KO TDs came on the first kickoff of the game against Indiana and Ohio State for gains of 98 and 97 yards, respectively.
As the recipient of the 2017 Hornung Award, Barkley earned the award over three other finalists. They included RB Nyheim Hines of North Carolina State, who not only eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing but also was a dual-threat kickoff and punt returner for the Wolfpack. He averaged 147.8 all-purpose yards per game. Another finalist was Iowa State’s Joel Lanning, who played both linebacker and quarterback for the Cyclones. He finished second in the Big 12 with 110 total tackles, while also playing a reserve role at QB. He finished with three completions on four attempts for a total of 47 yards. He also added 115 yards on the ground, including a nine-carry and 35-yard performance in Iowa State’s 38-31 upset over Oklahoma in early October. Lanning also totaled eight tackles in that game, including a 10-yard sack.
Perhaps Barkley’s stiffest competition for the Hornung Award came from an opponent against whom the Nittany Lions will face in the Fiesta Bowl. Washington’s Dante Pettis finished the season as the best punt returner in the nation. Averaging 20.4 yards per return, Pettis scored four PR TDs on the season. As a WR, Pettis was the Huskies’ No. 1 target. He finished the regular season with 62 catches, ranking him No. 6 in the Pac 12, and averaged 60 receiving yards per game. He also caught a total of seven TDs.
In the end, however, the Hornung committee chose Barkley as its most versatile player, as he excelled in three different phases and helped carry Penn State to it’s second consecutive 10-win season with not just his yardage and point production, but also for what he did without the ball in his hands.
He is now the first Penn State student-athlete to win the Hornung Award. For the second year in a row, a Big Ten player has laid claim to the trophy, as Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers took it home last season.
“I am thrilled for Saquon to join this elite list of Paul Hornung Award winners,” head coach James Franklin said. “I couldn’t be more proud of Saquon and everything he has accomplished at Penn State. In my 22 years of coaching, I have never coached or seen a player who can affect the game the way Saquon Barkley does. The Hornung Award is not only honoring the most versatile player in college football, but is also recognizing one of the best people in college football.”
Already named the Big Ten’s best offensive player, running back and kick return specialist for the 2017 season, Barkley is a candidate for three more prestigious acknowledgements. He is a finalist for the Maxwell Award, Doak Walker Award and Walter Camp Player of the Year Award, to be announced at a later date.