Iron Mike To Be Keynote Speaker At Hornung Awards

A scene from the 2011 Hornung Awards.

Earlier this week, the Louisville Sports Commission and Paul Hornung announced Georgia senior Brandon Boykin is the recipient of the 2012 Paul Hornung Award, presented by Texas Roadhouse.

The honor is given to the nation’s most versatile football player – so it’s only fitting to have an equally versatile keynote speaker.

Hall of Fame Football Coach and Player Mike Ditka will fill that role at the Feb. 2 banquet, which is being held at The Galt House Hotel.

“Mike is just a hell of a guy,” Hornung said recently while seated behind a massive desk in his office, his 7-year-old French Bulldog, Louie, lying nearby, his legs splayed beneath him, a Green Bay Packers collar around his neck.

“Ditka is the number one man in Chicago and still is,” Hornung continued. “He does a lot of charity work and still does. … He was the best blocking tight end in the history of the game. He was vicious. He would hurt people. Shoot, he’d do that to his brother if he was on the field.”

Hornung chuckled. Then, he launched into a memory about the time – “four or five years ago” – when Ditka invited the Golden Boy to Chicago to speak at a dinner.

“I went up and spoke and he introduced me like I’m going to introduce him (at the Hornung Awards). What happened was there was this small table where the speakers were up high. We were up there six foot. When he introduced me to speak, I went up and slapped him on the back and he fell off the goddamned stage. The stage – look! – he fell on concrete. I thought he broke his neck. I was shivering. I was so scared, but he got up and thank God he handled it. If that would have been me,” Hornung shook his head.  “It was terrible. To this day I think his wife thinks I did that on purpose. I don’t think she likes me.”

(Mrs. Ditka: Consider that a public apology from Hornung, who also apologized profusely from the stage that night.)

“Mike is just a hell of a guy,” said Hornung. “He really is. I just love him. I respect him.”

Known as Iron Mike for obvious reasons, the ESPN analyst – who has a line of wines that include one called Kick Ass Red – was more than kind to The Voice-Tribune, not to mention he’s funny enough to give Will Ferrell a run for his money. Oh wait. He already did.

About Iron Mike

Mike Ditka.

Mike Ditka.

Born Oct. 18, 1939 in Carnegie, Pennsylvania.

He is married to Diana and has four children: Mike, Mark, Megan and Matthew.

First Tight End to be inducted in to the Hall of Fame.

Golf is his favorite hobby, which he plays to a six handicap.

Second and only other person to win the Super Bowl as a player, assistant coach and head coach.

Inducted into the  Pro Football Hall of Fame on July 30, 1988.

College: University of Pittsburgh.

NFL Draft: Fifth pick of round 1 in 1961.

Professional: Debuted as a player for the Chicago Bears (1961-1966), before playing for the Philadelphia Eagles (1967-1968) and, finally, the Dallas Cowboys (1969-1972). His coaching career began whne he was an  assistant coach for the Dallas Cowboys (1973-1981). He served as head coach of the Chicago Bears for a decade (1982-1992) before ending his coaching career with the New Orleans Saints (1997-1999).

Awards: Five-time Pro Bowl selection (1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965); three-time Super Bowl champion (VI, XII, XX); NFL Championship (1963); 2x AP NFL Coach of Year (1985, 1988); 1985 Sporting News NFL Coach of Year; 1988 Pro Football Weekly NFL Coach of Year; 2x UPI NFL Coach of Year (1985, 1988); 1961 UPI NFL-NFC Rookie of Year.

Sources: NFL.com, Pro Football Hall of Fame, College Football Hall of Fame and MikeDitka.com.

Q&A with Mike Ditka

The Voice-Tribune: Why did you accept the invitation to speak at the Paul Hornung Awards, presented by Texas Roadhouse, on Feb. 2. It is Super Bowl weekend, after all.
Mike Ditka: Paul Hornung is my buddy. That’s no big deal for me. I’m going to be down in Indianapolis (for the Super Bowl). He asked me to do it. And I said fine I’ll do it. I’ve known Paul for a long, long time.

What do you think about the Paul Hornung Award on  a national scale?
Unfortunately people don’t remember. … Paul was a one-man team: He played linebacker, he played defense, he punted, he kicked off, he played quarterback … he played everywhere. He was really the most versatile player in college football. He did everything. He played all the positions.

When is the last time you were in Lou-uh-ville?

Lou-uh-ville. Kentucky.
Oh! You mean Lou-ee-ville.

Ha. Sorry, Mr. Ditka. Yes, Lou-ee-ville.
It’s been a while. That was back in my young days of gambling. I used to go down (for Derby), but I haven’t been back there in a while. I think as you get older you forget about those things. Or you watch them on TV. Forget the crowds.

I had some man friends who practically gushed when they heard I was interviewing you today. One of them called you America’s Coach. What’s that like?
I’ll be honest with you, I’m too old to think about that stuff anymore. I consider it a nice gesture when they call me coach. You know, I was a coach a long time ago. I’ve been retired from that a long time. What I am now is just a guy going through life and finishing out, going down the last couple turns.

You’ve had various walk-on acting roles and played yourself as a little league soccer coach in the movie “Kicking & Screaming,” alongside Will Ferrell. What’s your next acting venture?

Unfortunately, I haven’t heard back from Hollywood. (Laughs.) I run into a lot of kids who don’t know me from coaching football (in real life). They know me from coaching (in the movie). I was with some people last night at (Ditka’s, his restaurant) and there were some kids. “There’s the coach from ‘Kicking & Screaming.” At least I have some fame in some other arena.

Was that your first foray into soccer?
When I was young, we played football, baseball basketball. There was no other sport. … Now,I think it’s a great sport. It’s a great sport for young people. It certainly gives you all the benefits: coordination, conditioning.

Is that really you on Twitter?
I don’t Twitter. I don’t Twotter. I don’t do any of that. I have my phone and I call on it. That’s about all.

But you did just get an iPhone.
You just called all it did was buzz because I can’t get the ringtone back. I’m going down to the iPhone store as soon as I get out of here. I’m technically stupid. I gotta live with it.

Paul Hornung Award Banquet

The Paul Hornung Award.

The Paul Hornung Award.

Feb. 2, 2012
The Galt House Hotel
Keynote Speaker:
Cocktail Reception: 5:30 p.m.
Dinner & Program: 7 p.m.
Individual Tickets: $75 each
Corporate Table of 10: $1,250 (includes two tickets to the VIP cocktail reception)
Tickets and Questions: Contact Julie Howell at 502.587.6742 or jhowell@louisvillesports.org

2012 Paul Hornung Award Winner

Brandon Boykin, University of Georgia

Sports Figures Attending

  • Mike Ditka
  • Howard Schnellenberger
  • Charlie Strong, University of Louisville Head  Football Coach
  • Jeremy Schaap, ESPN
  • Christine Brennen, USA Today
  • Gil Brandt, NFL.com and NFL scout
  • Sam Madison, NFL player, 4-time All-Pro, Super Bowl Champion
  • Dexter Heyman, Uof L player and winner of the Howard Schnellenberger Award, which is given to the most valuable player on the winning team in the annual rivalry between the University of Louisville and University of Kentucky football teams.

Paul Hornung Award

The Paul Hornung Award, presented by Texas Roadhouse, is given annually by the Louisville Sports Commission (LSC) to the most versatile player in major college football. The Award was created by the LSC in January 2010 with the support of the Golden Boy himself, Paul Hornung, a native and lifelong resident of Louisville and member of the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame.

Hornung is considered by many the most versatile player in the history of college and pro football. He won the 1956 Heisman Trophy at quarterback for Notre Dame and was the No. 1 pick in the 1957 NFL draft. He played every position in the backfield during his career with the Irish, where he also punted, kicked, returned kicks and played defensive back. While in the NFL he was a multi-threat offensive back and prolific kicker. He was a member of four NFL championship teams as an all-pro halfback for the Green Bay Packers and led the NFL in scoring 1959-60-61, set the single season scoring record in 1960 with 176 points and was named League MVP following the 1961 season.

In the spirit of partnership with Paul Hornung, the Louisville Sports Commission oversees and administers all aspects of the Award including budget, selection process, marketing and PR, banquet, trophy, sponsorships and hospitality. An Advisory Committee co-chaired by LSC Chairman Steve Higdon and Executive Director Karl Schmitt and comprised of LSC Board leadership and local business leaders provides guidance to insure integrity of the award.

The mission of the award is to recognize and reward versatile, high-level performers in major college football; to help preserve the legacy of one of Louisville’s native sons and sports icons; and to promote Louisville as a great sports town.

Contact writer Angie Fenton at angie@voice-tribune.com, @angiefenton on Twitter or call 502.551.2698.

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