February is Black History Month and we’d like to take the time to honor some coaches and players who were a part of the growth of the National Football League. Today, we showcase Emlen Tunnell, the first African American inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Tunnell’s journey to the NFL was a long one. Literally. After attending the University of Iowa, he hitchhiked from Iowa to New York City to ask Jack Mara, Tim Mara’s son, to try out for the New York Giants. 14 years later–11 years with the Giants, 3 with the Green Bay Packers–Tunnell solidified himself as one of the greatest defensive backs in the league. He ended his career with 79 interceptions, a record held until Paul Krause surpassed it in 1979, and earned 9 Pro Bowl honors. Once he finished playing, he became a scout and assistant coach for the Giants. Sadly, his life ended too soon after he suffered a heart attack during a practice session in 1975.
Check out this piece about Tunnell’s legacy from “Top 100 Greatest Players of All-Time”: