By LARRY VAUGHT
Winning the Paul Hornung Award presented by the Louisville Quarterback Club to the state’s top high school football player was a “proud moment” for Jager Burton. The Frederick Douglass High School standout became the first offensive lineman to win the award.
“It’s just crazy to think I am the first offensive lineman to win when you think about Jed, Walker and Landon and how they have done such great things in college and even the NFL,” said Burton, a recent University of Kentucky signee. “It’s just weird to even think about.”
Jed Wills played at Lafayette before winning a national championship at Alabama. He was a first-round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns. Landon Young, Wills’ high school teammate at Lafayette, has been a fixture in the Big Blue Wall at UK. Walker Parks, Burton’s former teammate at Douglas, is a freshman at Clemson and plays regularly.
Burton is the state’s top ranked recruit in the 2021 recruiting class and is rated as the nation’s No. 66 prospect by 247Sports. He was selected for the prestigious All-American Bowl. He had offers from the nation’s best college programs and picked UK over Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Oregon.
“There were so many other great players spread out in the state this year,” Burton said. “That just makes this more special. I am just really grateful to get this award. It’s one I really wanted because I know what a great job the Louisville Quarterback Club does evaluating people to pick the winner. This was my No. 1 goal I have been chasing. It means so much to have people who really know football pick you for an award like this.”
Frederick Douglass coach Nathan McPeek, a former offensive lineman, believes Burton is deserving of this award and more.
“Obviously he is a great human as well as a great player and great ambassador for our program,” McPeek said. “He dominates between the lines on the field and I am really proud of him.
“I was pretty outspoken all year about how I thought he should win an award like this. I work with him daily as his offensive line coach and see what he does. There have been a lot of great players who have played in the offensive line who have not won this award. It’s good to see more people starting to see how important this position is at all levels. I am really happy for him and for a player at his position to win this award is really historic.”
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops called Burton a “difference maker” on signing day and a player who had been a UK priority for two years.
McPeek says the 6-4, 290-pound Burton has rare athleticism for a player his size, something UK recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow made him stand out nationally.
“But the thing he really got better at is having a nasty disposition,” McPeek said. “Walker was nasty and wanted to knock your head off. Jager has grown into that the last two years and that’s what he needs to play at UK and play in the SEC. His athleticism is unbelievable. I truly believe if he stays healthy he will be playing on Sundays (in the NFL).”
Paul Hornung Award winners
Here is a complete list of past Paul Hornung Award winners with their high school and college choice.
2019 — Beau Allen, Lexington Catholic, Kentucky.
2018 — Wandale Robison, Western Hills, Nebraska.
2017 — Rondale Moore, Trinity, Purdue.
2016 — Walker Wood, Lafayette, Kentucky.
2015 — Kash Daniel, Paintsville, Kentucky.
2014 — Damien Harris, Madison Southern, Alabama.
2013 — Matt Elam, John Hardin, Kentucky.
2012 — James Quick, Trinity, Louisville.
2011 — Patrick Towles, Highlands, Kentucky.
2010 — Lamar Dawson, Boyle County, USC, and DeVante Parker, Ballard, Louisville.
2009 — Austin Collinsworth, Highlands, Notre Dame.
2008 — Deuce Finch, St. Xavier, Boston College.
2007 — Sam Robey, Trinity, Florida, and Sam Ulinski, Male, Kentucky.
2006 — Doug Beaumont, Male, Louisville.
2005 — Micah Johnson, Ft. Campbell, Kentucky.
2004 — Curtis Pulley, Hopkinsville, Kentucky.
2003 — Brian Brohm, Trinity, Louisville.
2002 — Michael Bush, Male, Louisville, and Brian Brohm, Trinity, Louisville.
2001 — Michael Bush, Male, Louisville.
2000 — Montrell Jones, Male, Tennessee/Louisville.
1999 — Montrell Jones, Male.
1998 — Derek Smith, Highlands, Kentucky.
1997 — Dennis Johnson, Harrodsburg, Kentucky.
1996 — Tony Driver, Male, Notre Dame.
1995 — Tim Couch, Leslie County, Kentucky.
1994 — Chris Redman, Male, Louisville.
1993 — Shawn Alexander, Boone County, Alabama.