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Emlen Tunnell

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Title: Emlen Tunnell  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: New York Giants, Jim Lee Howell, Sam Huff, Vince Lombardi, Jack Butler (American football)
Collection: 1925 Births, 1975 Deaths, African-American Players of American Football, American Football Return Specialists, American Football Safeties, Deaths from Myocardial Infarction, Eastern Conference Pro Bowl Players, Green Bay Packers Players, Iowa Hawkeyes Football Players, New York Giants Players, People from Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, People from Pleasantville, New York, Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductees, Toledo Rockets Football Players, Toledo Rockets Men's Basketball Players, Western Conference Pro Bowl Players
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Emlen Tunnell

Emlen Tunnell
No. 45
Position: Defensive back
Personal information
Date of birth: (1925-03-29)March 29, 1925
Place of birth: Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania
Date of death: July 22, 1975(1975-07-22) (aged 50)
Place of death: Pleasantville, New York
Career information
College: Iowa
Undrafted: 1948
Career history

Playing career

Coaching/Executive career

  • New York Giants (1963-1965)
  • New York Giants (1965-1973)
    (Assistant head coach)
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
INT: 79
INT yards: 1,282
Touchdowns: 4
Stats at
Pro Football Hall of Fame

Emlen Lewis Tunnell (March 29, 1925 – July 22, 1975) was an American football player. He was the first African American to play for the New York Giants,[1] and was inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame in 1967, the first African-American to be inducted. He played in the National Football League for the Giants and Green Bay Packers. Tunnell played college football at the University of Iowa.

In 1999, Tunnell was ranked number 70 on The Sporting News' list of 100 Greatest Football Players.

Tunnell died of a heart attack on July 22, 1975.


  • College career 1
  • National Football League career 2
  • Notes 3
  • External links 4

College career

Tunnell first played for the University of Toledo where he suffered a broken neck injury that was so severe the US Army and US Navy both rejected his attempts to enlist during World War II. He eventually was accepted by the US Coast Guard and spent two years of service there before returning to play for the University of Iowa football team.[2] He started as a quarterback, halfback and on defense during his two years as a Hawkeye. He led the team in passing in the 1946 season and receiving during the 1947 season.[3] He quit the team before the 1948 season in order to join the New York Giants.[3]

National Football League career

Tunnell was undrafted after college, and began his pro career by hitchhiking across the country from Iowa to New York City to meet Jack Mara, son of Giants founder Tim Mara, and ask to try out for the team.[4] In his Hall of Fame induction speech, Tunnell thanked the West Indian banana-truck driver who dropped him off near this Polo Grounds "appointment".[5]

Tunnell played 14 years in the National Football League. He played his first 11 years with the New York Giants and the last three years with the Green Bay Packers. Tunnell was a nine-time Pro Bowl selection. He moved from the Giants to the Packers when Giants defensive coordinator Vince Lombardi took over the head coaching duties at Green Bay.[6] He led the NFL in punt return yards twice, in 1951 and 1952 and played a then NFL record of 143 consecutive games.[6] He became a defensive leader with the Packers, helping out rookies and was valued for his defensive experience.[6]

He ended his career with a record 79 interceptions (since surpassed by Paul Krause), which he returned for 1,282 yards and 4 touchdowns, and 16 fumble recoveries, along with another 3,506 return yards and 6 touchdowns on special teams.[3] He was elected as the first African American in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967.[3] Tunnell became a scout and assistant coach with the Giants, where he died from a heart attack during a practice session in 1975.


  1. ^ Battista, Judy (September 23, 2010). "Honoring the Legacy of the New York Football Giants". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ Mike Finn, Chad Leistikow. Hawkeye Legends, Lists, & Lore. Simon and Schuster. p. 108.  
  3. ^ a b c d Finn, 85
  4. ^ Tunnell, Emlen (1966). Footsteps of a Giant. New York, NY: Doubleday.  
  5. ^ Pennington, Bill (14 January 2012). "The Giants' Greatest Packer". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 January 2012. 
  6. ^ a b c Lea, Bud (November 2, 1960). "Packers Defense Now Solid Unit". The Milwaukee Journal. p. 34. Retrieved 24 April 2014. 


Tunnell, Emlen and William Gleason, "Footsteps of a Giant", Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1966. Library of Congress number 65-19776. Tunnell's autobiography.

External links

  • Pro Football Hall of Fame Member Biography
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