The 76-player Paul Hornung Award watch list was announced yesterday morning by the Louisville Sports Commission and included Aztecs running back Jordan Byrd. There were five other Mountain West athletes selected, them being Boise State’s Avery Williams (CB), Utah State’s Deven Thompkins (WR), Colorado State’s Dante Wright (WR), Fresno State’s Ronnie Rivers (RB), and finally Nevada’s Toa Taua (RB).
Byrd is entering his true junior season and is coming off a strong sophomore campaign. In 2019, he earned 78 carries and racked up 355 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also reeled in 16 receptions for 64 yards but was not able to find the end-zone. Not only was he utilized on the ground and through the air, but Jordan was also SDSU’s lead kick and punt returner. On 15 kick returners he gained 321 yards and on 12 punt returns he picked up another 95 yards.
His rushing attempts were just the fourth most among all RBs on the roster, but with Juwan Washington now gone, that leaves 150 carries on the table. Although Byrd does not possess the bell-cow back frame as he is only 5’9” and 170 pounds, he has the ability to receive 100+ carries simply due to his speed and elusiveness. That deadly combination allows him to force missed tackles and pick up yards after contact with ease. The only thing holding him back from being a spectacular pick for the Hornung Award is the amount of touches he will get next season. With three other running backs returning who had 30+ carries a year ago, and a new QB under center, it is easy to assume he will struggle to get the requisite number of touches he will need to post stellar stats compared to other on the watch list.
The Hornung is one of the most recent awards as it was first handed out in 2010. Since its inception, no Mountain West player has ever received the Award. In fact, no Group of Five player has ever hoisted the trophy, with all 10 victors hailing from Power Five programs. 2019’s winner was Lynn Bowden Jr. from Kentucky who lined up at wide receiver, quarterback, running back, and as a return specialist.
There are no semifinalists posted for the Hornung award, there are ,however, four finalists who will be announced on November 14th. The ultimate winner will be honored December 7th and will be invited to the Paul Hornung Award dinner which is held in Louisville, Kentucky sometime in March 2021. In the meantime, Byrd will do all he can on the field to help his Aztecs record reign superior in the Mountain West.