The New York Giants first learned of future Hall of Fame running back Alphonse “Tuffy” Leemans after a vacationing high school boy, reported to his father what he had witnessed during a game between George Washington College and Alabama.
What he saw was a sensational performance by Leemans who from 1933 to 1935 starred for George Washington. The high school boy was Wellington Mara, son of the Giants owner Tim Mara. Thanks to young Mara, Leemans became the No. 2 draft pick of the Giants in the National Football League's first-ever college draft in 1936.
Tuffy was named the outstanding player in the 1936 College All-Star game and, upon joining the Giants, immediately took over as one of the NFL's most dependable workhorses. The 6-0, 195-pound fullback led the league in rushing as a rookie with 830 yards. He was the only rookie named to the annual all-league team.
During his outstanding eight-year career, he was named first- or second team all-league every year from 1936 through 1942, by either or both the NFL and a major wire service. A versatile player, at one time or another played fullback or halfback and excelled on defense. At the same time and certainly as a direct result of his play, the Giants were consistently contending for a title berth.
A native of Superior, Wisconsin, Leemans finished his pro career in 1943 with 3,132 yards rushing, 28 receptions for 422 yards, and 2,318 yards passing to his credit. He scored 17 touchdowns rushing, three on receptions, and passed for 25 more.
His career ledger also includes punt return and pass interception statistics. His marks become even more significant when it is remembered that the Giants of that era employed a system that saw two separate units divide playing time both offensively and defensively.