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Golden Boy
As told to William F. Reed
By Paul Hornung and the University of Nebraska Press

Reviewer: Marc Maturo, MarcMyWords.net; "A Home Run" (4/5)

The first interesting tidbit in a book replete with interesting anecdotes is the fact that Hornung's original earpiece, so to speak, was the late Dick Schaap, who died on Dec. 21, 2001, just prior to work beginning on this oral history. Reed, a writer who lived in Hornung's neighborhood in Louisville, Ky., less than a hundred yards from Paul's home, fills in admirably. But Golden Boy is dedicated to Schaap, who is listed as the all-time number one fan and friend of Lombardi's Green Bay Packers.

Lombardi and the legendary Packers makes for an important chapter in Hornung's life, and it is a life well worth recounting, not simply for Hornung's Hall of Fame career with Lombardi's Packers.

Many of Hornung's relationships, mostly good, are brought back vividly to life in Hornung's earthy, straightforward style, with no punches pulled, even to the point of noting whom he considers the worst coach at his alma mater, the fabled University of Notre Dame. Horning is also pointedly candid in talking about the relationships he formed with his true father figure, one Henry Hoffman, who died in 1984; with his Notre Dame coaches; with the many women in his life including his wife Angela, whom he married in 1979; and with his mom, Loretta, who was the chief reason why Horning made the decision to attend Notre Dame; or with his dad, a problem drinker and who was divorced from his mother when Hornung was two or three years old.

Among the many topics in Hornung's incredibly interesting life was his infamous suspension for gambling on games by the late NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle, with whom Hornung had nothing but a cordial relationship. As Hornung recounts, for him gambling was just another form of entertainment.

Being raised in Louisville naturally led Hornung to the race tracks and, what else, gambling. But Hornung was never worried about the big hit. His one true desire is to have a horse simply run, never mind win, the Kentucky Derby. As always in Golden Boy, Hornung doesn't beat around the bush and comes across as a guy you'd want to sit down with and share a drink, just throw the bull. His frankness comes through often, as with his college coaches, about the Heisman Trophy he won, about his teammates, his roadcasting career, how his tenure with Notre Dame came to an untimely end.

He talks warmly the great offensive tackle Forrest Gregg, who has the first nickel he ever earned; he retells a story about George Steinbrenner that reveals The Boss's kindness and generosity; he remembers how he saved a foolish Ray Nitschke, the great linebacker, from taking a beating from the gentle but very tough running back Rick Casares, a guy, says Hornung, who you didn't want to cross.

Hornung also discusses at length how the media today differs greatly from the media in his playing days, which ran from 1957 though 1966. He also talks about the celebrity life he enjoyed, even when in college, and tells how his perceived snub of Frank Sinatra led to the breakup of what had been a close friendship. Sinatra, of course, is just one the many, how do we put it, "unconventional types" that one time or another played a part in Hornung's life. He also debunks many myths in Golden Boy, such as the rules and regulations issued by the NCAA and the myth of the squeaky-clean college football player and squeaky-clean college football coach.

It is just those types of debunking and honestly that makes Golden Boy, originally released in 2004, a marvelously enjoyable read for any sports fan.

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