While there is negative sentiment around Kentucky towards Catholic Sports, specifically LexCath, Trinity, and St X, one cannot deny the contributions that many of their great players have given to sports in this state. Louisville’s Catholic Sports Network set out to honor the local greats by starting a Hall of Fame this past week. You might be surprised how many big names came from small beginnings.
– Paul Hornung was the golden boy and still is. The 1956 Heisman Trophy winner is the only player to ever win the prestigious award on a team with a losing record, when his Notre Dame team went only 2-8. He became a key piece in Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packer dynasty in the 1960s. The talented athlete started it all at Flaget High School, close to his West End home where he was raised by a hard working single mother.
– Howard Schnellenberger was another Flaget football product that has made his name known throughout the state. He began his college career after being recruited by Bear Bryant , in what turned into a story of legend. Howard originally committed to IU, but Bear was determined. After two visits, one featuring Kentucky’s governor, Howard and his mother were still not going to decommitt because “he’s a good Catholic boy”. Bear brought the Archbishop on his 3rd visit and convinced Howard to become a Wildcat.
Schnellenberger is in UK’s ring of honor, but his name is on Louisville’s football complex. When he got the job you could get ticket coupons at gas stations. The Orange Bowl victory can be accredited to Schnellenberger’s work. His other career highlights include a National Championship at Miami, an Oklahoma coaching job, and the building of Florida Atlantic’s football program.
– Bobby Nichols golfed at St. X before a pro career that includes a 1964 PGA Championship win over Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. None of it would have happened without the help of a surprising legend: Bear Bryant. The Bear heard of Nichols’ excellent golf game while coaching at Texas A&M. At the time golf scholarships didn’t exist, so Bear gave him a football scholarship so he could golf at A&M. The local 9-hole course named after Nichols is where I learned how to golf (I still need to learn A LOT more).
– Bubba Paris (DeSales) and Will Wolford (St. X) were two of the best offensive lineman in the NFL during their playing years. Paris won 3 Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers after receiving All-American honors at Michigan. Will Wolford starred at Vanderbilt before becoming the highest played offensive lineman in the NFL for the Buffalo Bills. He lost 3 Super Bowls with the Bills, and is now the head coach at St. X.
– You can see the full list of inductees, and follow @RoushKSR