LSU receiver-kick returner Odell Beckham Jr. won the Paul Hornung Award, given annually to the nation’s most versatile athlete.
Beckham leads the Southeastern Conference and is second nationally averaging 185 all-purpose yards per game. He beat out four other finalists to capture the award, in its fourth year being given by the Louisville Sports Commission.
“I have never been around a more versatile player, so this award is very fitting,” said Cam Cameron, LSU offensive coordinator and a former NFL assistant, in a statement.
During the regular season, Beckham caught 57 passes for 1,117 yards and eight touchdowns; returned 30 kicks for 806 yards; returned 14 punts for 141 yards; and carried the ball five times for 58 yards. He was in the top five in the Southeastern Conference in punt return average, receptions per game, receiving yards per game and kick return average.
“It’s just an honor and a blessing to even be mentioned with the other guys who were up for the Hornung Award,” Beckham said in a statement. “I had great teammates help me along the way, especially on kickoff and punt returns. None of the opportunities to display my versatility would have been possible if it weren’t for my teammates and coaches who put me in a position to succeed.”
Beckham and his family will be honored Jan. 28 in Louisville.
By that time, the LSU star will have decided if he’ll return for his senior year. Underclassmen must declare for the NFL draft by Jan. 15. Most believe Beckham will forgo his senior season, and he’s projected to be selected in the top three rounds.
Beckham will have at least one more game to shine. No. 14 LSU (9-3) meets unranked Iowa (8-4) on Jan. 1 in the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla.
Beckham needs 175 all-purpose yards to break the SEC’s single-season record held by former Kentucky standout Randall Cobb. Beckham is third on the list, also trailing Arkansas running back Darren McFadden’s 2,310 yards.
Beckham was chosen from five finalists by a 16-member committee comprised of sports journalists and retired NFL players. He also secured a first-place vote from online fan voting.
The other finalists were Western Kentucky running back Antonio Andrews, Arizona State running back Marion Grice, UCLA linebacker Myles Jack and Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Created by the Louisville Sports Commission in 2010, the award is named after Paul Hornung, the 1956 Heisman Trophy winner at Notre Dame and NFL MVP for the Green Bay Packers.
Picking up the tab
LSU students who attended at least three regular-season home games this year won’t have to pay for Outback Bowl tickets.
The LSU athletic department and the Tiger Athletic Foundation will cover ticket costs for those students if they register for tickets by Sunday, team spokesman Michael Bonnette said. Tickets cost $80 each.
LSU had sold about 100 student tickets as of Friday morning, Bonnette said. Students must go through the normal process of ordering bowl tickets, he said. They can order them at lsutix.net.
Also, those students are eligible to buy guest tickets at half price. At several games this season, the LSU student section was half-full, most notably in the regular-season finale, a win over Arkansas.
“We are rewarding those students that came to three or more LSU home games,” Bonnette said. “This is a reward or a thank you for their support.”
Many of the school’s allotted 12,000 tickets remained unsold as of Friday morning. Bonnette declined to say how many tickets the school has sold.
The school is pushing tickets hard. The athletic department is giving away one prize per day for 14 days to fans who buy tickets. Fans are automatically entered when they purchase a ticket through the LSU ticket office. Fans can order by visiting lsutix.net or by calling the ticket office at (800) 960-8587 or (225) 578-2184 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
The Tigers have not played in the Outback Bowl in 25 years. The bowl passed on and No. 9 Missouri and then picked LSU over Texas A&M and Georgia.
LSU last year sold 10,500 of its allotted 16,000 Chick-fil-A Bowl tickets. An SEC insurance policy reimbursed LSU for the cost of about 4,000 tickets, but the school still had to pay for $176,300 in unsold tickets.