Louisville, Ky. – Dec. 8, 2021 – University of Houston senior Marcus Jones, an All-American return specialist and lock down cornerback who also saw duty on offense, has been named winner of the 2021 Paul Hornung Award presented by Texas Roadhouse, given annually to the most versatile player in major college football.
The announcement was made today by Karl Schmitt Jr., president and CEO of the Louisville Sports Commission, owners and operators of the Award. The Paul Hornung Award Selection Committee, comprised of 17 sports journalists and football experts from across the country, picked Jones from among the five finalists who were announced Nov. 17. An online vote powered by Texas Roadhouse accounted for the 18thvote.
Jones and his family will be honored at the annual Paul Hornung Award ceremony on Mar. 8, 2022, at the Galt House Hotel in downtown Louisville.
“This award means a lot to me,” Jones said. “ I’ve been undersized and overlooked a lot in my life. I just kept my head down and focused on controlling the controllable. Any way I can help the team, I was down for it whether it was extra time spent in meetings or putting in the physical work on the practice field.”
“This honor is well-deserved for Marcus,” said Houston Head Coach Dana Holgorsen. “His ability to impact games in all three phases undoubtedly makes him the most versatile player in the country. We’re proud to have him in our program these last few years. His combination of intelligence and athleticism makes him elite wherever he lines up.”
Jones, the 12thwinner of the Paul Hornung Award and the first from a Group of Five conference (AAC), also is an accomplished musician. The Enterprise, Ala., native wrote, sang and produced all tracks for his Complications album under the artist name Elliott J. However, his most well-known strains to-date have been in the college football arena, where he earned consensus All-American Punt Return Specialist in 2020 and AAC Specialist of the Year and second team defense in 2021.
A phenomenal athlete with breakaway speed, Jones is known for his acrobatic plays on pass defense and outstanding open-field tackles. He finished the season with 48 tackles, five interceptions, 13 pass breakups, one forced fumble and one tackle for a loss. He ranks second nationally in interceptions and sixth nationally in passes defended per game with 1.4.
An elusive return specialist, Jones is the only player in the country with two touchdowns returning punts and two touchdowns returning kickoffs. He is fourth in the nation in average yards per punt return at 14.4 and averages a staggering 34 yards per kickoff return. On offense, Jones lined up at wide receiver in wins over Navy and cross-town rival Rice, catching 10 passes for 109 yards and a score and carrying the ball twice.
Jones had a career night in the Cougars’ 44-37 shootout win over no. 16-ranked SMU: he returned a kickoff 100 yards for the winning score with 17 seconds remaining; made six tackles, including one tackle-for-loss; intercepted a pass; and amassed 186 return yards on three kick returns and two punt returns. In the Cougars 31-13 win over Memphis, he was the only FBS player in 2021 with two interceptions and three pass break-ups in a game. Against Navy, he returned a punt 73 yards for a touchdown and caught a 47-yard touchdown pass for what proved to be the winning score. In a 31-24 home win over East Carolina, Jones returned a kickoff 98-yards for a touchdown, the longest play in TDECU Stadium history. And in the AAC conference championship against Cincinnati, Jones compiled 106 return yards, recorded one tackle, forced a fumble and broke up one pass..