New York Giants: DB Emlem Tunnell

By Michael Stewart

In the long history of the New York Giants, they have had outstanding players from Mel Hein to Lawrence Taylor. However; there is one player in Giants history that many fans often leave out when Giant greats are mentioned and that is Emlen Tunnell.

Arguably the greatest DB in Giants history as Tunnell was ahead of his time and was a main contributor to the Giants great defenses. Before joining the Giants in 1948, Tunnell served his country in the US Coast Guard; which was his 3rd option as a neck injury suffered at the University of Toledo prevented him from joining both US Army and US Navy during WWII.

After serving for the US Coast Guard, Tunnell returned to play football for the University of Iowa where he played a variety of positions; such as QB, HB and DB. During his two seasons at Iowa, Tunnell led the team in passing in 1946 and then led the team in receiving in 1947. Tunnell was undrafted out of college, but found his way with the Giants in 1948 by hitchhiking across the country from Iowa to New York to meet Jack Mara (son of Giants founder Tim Mara) and ask to try out for the team. Thus began a remarkable 11 years (14 total, final 3 with Green Bay) with the Giants as Tunnell quickly became one of the stars on defense. Tunnell was a 9 time Pro Bowl selection (1950-1957, 1959), an 8 time All Pro (1949-1952,1954-1957), 2 time NFL Champion (1956,1961) and a member of the NFL 1950’s All-Decade Team. He led the NFL in punt return yards 2 times (1951 & 1952) and played an NFL record of 143 consecutive games at that time.

Tunnell ended his career with a record 79 interceptions (since broken); which he returned for over 1200 yards with 4 TDS. Also, recovering 16 fumbles for another 3500 plus yards with 6 TDS on special teams. The Giants have never had a DB that achieved as much as Tunnell has and most likely never will. He was elected as the first African American in the Pro Football Hall of Fall in 1967