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Jager Burton Knows

Photo credit Lacy Robinson

LOUISVILLE — Jäger Burton knows plenty about the illustrious group of high school players who have won the Paul Hornung Award given annually by the Louisville Quarterback Club to the state’s top player.

Two of the former winners — quarterback Beau Allen of Lexington Catholic and receiver Wan’Dale Robinson of Western Hills — are now his teammates at Kentucky. Allen was in Louisville Friday to see Burton, an early enrollee at UK after his Frederick Douglass High School career, receive the Hornung Award.

Burton said it was not only a huge honor but the first time he had really got to enjoy the perks of his outstanding prep career. Not only did he win the Hornung Award, but he was named Co-Mr. Football by the Associated Press, selected to play in the All-American Bowl and named a finalist for the 2020 Sports Illustrated All-America team.

“I didn’t get to play in the bowl game. Didn’t get to do Mr. Football stuff. This is my first award thing I have done,” Burton said. “I am just so happy to be here. It kind of feels like the pandemic is getting behind us.”

Hornung, a Louisville native, died in November at age 84. He was a halfback, quarterback and placekicker at Notre Dame — where he also played basketball — and won the Heisman Trophy.

He had a Hall of Fame career with the Green Bay Packers from 1957-66 and was on teams that won four NFL titles and the first Super Bowl. He was the first Heisman winner to be the first overall pick in the NFL draft, win the NFL most valuable player, and be inducted into both the pro and college football halls of fame.

Douglass coach Nathan McPeek knew it was special for an offensive lineman to win the Hornung Award but thought Burton, a four-star recruit who picked UK over some of the nation’s biggest football powers, was the perfect choice.

“I am 39 (years old) and know who Paul Hornung is and how much of a legend he was,” McPeek said. “A lot of kids do not understand the history of football. One thing I love about Jager is he respects the game of football.”

McPeek noted how Burton graduated mid-year to enroll early at Kentucky, something the Douglass coach said is not easy to do.

“I know he is doing well academically now too,” Burton said. “You just will not find a better person than Jager. I am proud of him and appreciate all he has done for me, our school and our program.”

Burton made it clear he knew how “great” a player Hornung was and all he did.

“It really sucks he has passed away,” Burton said.

Kentucky associate coach/recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow was the guest speaker for the event and offered plenty of praise for Burton.

“Jager is going to be very successful,” Marrow said. “I am very excited about Jager after spring ball. Jager is going to be a really good player.”

Larry Vaught
Larry Vaught is a seven-time winner of the Kentucky Sportswriter of the Year award and has covered University of Kentucky sports since 1975. Larry now has a syndicated UK sports column appearing in 34 newspapers across the state as well as, and Larry also joins Mark Buerger and Anthony White on WLAP Sunday Morning Sports each week in Lexington as well as appearing each Tuesday with Tom Leach on The Leach Report.

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