“R.J. Shelton is one of the most athletic players I have ever coached,” MSU’s wide receivers coach Terrence Samuel said. “R.J. could be a great player on either side of the ball, and he has some of the best football instincts I have seen.”
The award, now in its sixth season, is given annually to the most versatile player in major college football by the Louisville Sports Commission and Louisville native Paul Hornung.
The winner and his family will be honored in February 2016 at the annual Paul Hornung Award Banquet presented by KentuckyOne Health, to be held at the Galt House Hotel in downtown Louisville.
Hornung won the 1956 Heisman Trophy playing every position in the offensive backfield during his Notre Dame career, and was a triple threat halfback for the title town Green Bay Packers of the early 1960s, according to a press release announcing the Watch List.
“I’m ecstatic that the Paul Hornung Award has gained national prominence in such a short time,” Hornung said. “The quality of our winners, finalists and weekly honorees has been impressive, and I’m pleased that we are able to acknowledge outstanding players who contribute any way possible to help their teams win, the way I did with Notre Dame and the Green Bay Packers.”
In the award’s short existence, several players who have won in the past have already begun to make a name for themselves in the NFL.
Former West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin won the award in 2012 as one of two players in the nation with more than 500 yards in three different categories: rushing, receiving and kick returns.
Former Louisiana State wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. won the award in 2013 after finishing the season ranked second in the nation and first in the Southeastern Conference with 2,222 all-purpose yards and 185.2 average yards per game.
Austin, who was selected with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft, has shown signs of explosiveness for the St. Louis Rams, but the lack of a legitimate quarterback has limited his impact.
Beckham Jr., the NFL’s AP Offensive Rookie of the Year and a Pro Bowler in 2014, was the No. 12 overall selection in the 2014 draft. Beckham Jr. made some eye-popping catches in a very productive rookie year.
If Shelton goes on to win the award, it would put him in some pretty special company. A national selection committee, comprised of 16 sports journalists and former NFL stars, votes for the Hornung Award finalists and the winner, with fan voting powered by Texas Roadhouse comprising the 17th vote.