EMLEN TUNNELL

EMLEN TUNNELL

Class of 1967
Safety >>> 6-1, 187
(Toledo, Iowa)
1948-1958 New York Giants, 1959-1961 Green Bay Packers

Emlen Lewis Tunnell ... Signed as free agent, 1948 ... Known as Giants "offense on defense," keyed famed "umbrella defense" of 1950s  ...  Gained more yards (924) on interceptions, kick returns than NFL rushing leader, 1952  ...  Held career marks in interceptions (79 for 1,282 yards), punt returns (262 for 2,217 yards). . .All-NFL six years  ...  Played in nine Pro Bowls  ...  Named NFL's all-time safety, 1969  ...  Born March 29, 1925, in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania  ...  Died July 22, 1975, at age of 50.

During the decade of the 1950s, when the New York Giants were a perennial contender in the National Football League, Emlen Tunnell served as the key “strut” in the Giants’ famed “Umbrella Defense,” and in so doing, put fear into the hearts of the opposition.

He was known as that team's "offense on defense." Tunnell entered pro football as a free agent in 1948 after having spent time at the University of Toledo and Iowa as well as time in the Coast Guard.

At Toledo he suffered a broken neck. His injury was severe enough that both the Army and Navy rejected his enlistment efforts during World War II. The Coast Guard finally accepted Em for duty. Following his Coast Guard service, Tunnell returned to college at the University of Iowa. He left Iowa after the 1947 season.

Most pro teams thought Tunnell would play a third year at Iowa so he was not drafted in 1948. Deciding to seek a pro job on his own, he approached the New York Giants, who eventually offered him a contract.

Tunnell became the first African American to play for the Giants. He was also the first African American to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Even though Em proved to be an exceptional special teams player, it was on defense that he made his lasting mark.

The umbrella defense that made the Giants so successful in the 1950s was basically a 4-1-6 alignment with two defensive ends dropping back to team with four defensive backs on passing situations. As the safety, Tunnell played at the top, or back of the alignment.

Always a major contributor to his teams' defensive successes, Emlen intercepted a then-record 79 passes in his 14 seasons with the Giants and the Green Bay Packers.

Year
Team
G
Int
Yds.
Avg.
TD
No.
Yds.
Avg.
TD
1948 New York Giants
10
7
116
16.6
1
12
115
9.6
0
1949 New York Giants
12
10
251
25.1
2
26
315
12.1
1
1950 New York Giants
12
7
167
23.9
0
31
305
9.8
0
1951 New York Giants
12
9
74
8.2
0
34
489
14.4
3
1952 New York
12
7
149
21.3
0
30
411
13.7
0
1953 New York
12
6
117
19.5
0
38
223
5.9
0
1954 New York
12
8
108
13.5
0
25
78
3.1
0
1955 New York
12
7
76
10.9
0
25
98
3.9
1
1956 New York
12
6
87
14.5
0
22
120
5.5
0
1957 New York
12
6
87
14.5
1
12
60
5.0
0
1958 New York
12
1
8
8.0
0
6
0
0.0
0
1959 Green Bay
12
2
20
10.0
0
1
3
3.0
0
1960 Green Bay
12
3
22
7.3
0
0
0
0.0
0
1961 Green Bay
13
0
0
0.0
0
0
0
0.0
0
Career Total
167
79
1282
16.2
4
262
2217
8.5
5
Additional Career Statistics: Passing: 2-1-50; Rushing: 17-43; Receiving: 5-39; Kickoff Returns: 46-1215, 1 TD

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