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Emlen Tunnell: the first black player in the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Defensive standout played 14 seasons in the NFL

11:00 AMEmlen Tunnell was the first black player to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Born: March 29, 1925

Died: July 23, 1975

His story: Tunnell, born in Philadelphia, played football at the University of Toledo in 1942. He suffered a broken neck, which cut short his season, but he recovered in time to lead Toledo’s men’s basketball team to the National Invitation Tournament finals in 1943. He attempted to enlist in the U.S. Army and Navy during World War II but was denied because of his neck injury. He joined the U.S. Coast Guard and served from 1943-46. He finished his college career at the University of Iowa from 1946-47. He signed with the New York Giants in 1948, becoming the first black player to do so. He played defensive halfback and safety with the Giants until 1958 and spent his final three seasons with the Green Bay Packers, retiring in 1962. He played in nine Pro Bowls over his 14-year career and was part of two NFL championship teams in 1956 and ’61. His 79 career interceptions were an NFL record when he retired. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967, the first black player and first pure defensive player to be enshrined. He remained with the Giants from 1963-74 as a special assistant coach and defensive backs coach. (19651974).

Fast fact: His nickname was Emlen the Gremlin.

Quotable: Tunnell’s Packers teammates often came to him for guidance. “I’m old enough to preside over them, but still young enough to be part of them,” he said.

The Undefeated will profile an athlete each day during Black History Month.

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11:00 AMEmlen Tunnell was the first black player to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Born: March 29, 1925

Died: July 23, 1975

His story: Tunnell, born in Philadelphia, played football at the University of Toledo in 1942. He suffered a broken neck, which cut short his season, but he recovered in time to lead Toledo’s men’s basketball team to the National Invitation Tournament finals in 1943. He attempted to enlist in the U.S. Army and Navy during World War II but was denied because of his neck injury. He joined the U.S. Coast Guard and served from 1943-46. He finished his college career at the University of Iowa from 1946-47. He signed with the New York Giants in 1948, becoming the first black player to do so. He played defensive halfback and safety with the Giants until 1958 and spent his final three seasons with the Green Bay Packers, retiring in 1962. He played in nine Pro Bowls over his 14-year career and was part of two NFL championship teams in 1956 and ’61. His 79 career interceptions were an NFL record when he retired. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967, the first black player and first pure defensive player to be enshrined. He remained with the Giants from 1963-74 as a special assistant coach and defensive backs coach. (19651974).

Fast fact: His nickname was Emlen the Gremlin.

Quotable: Tunnell’s Packers teammates often came to him for guidance. “I’m old enough to preside over them, but still young enough to be part of them,” he said.

The Undefeated will profile an athlete each day during Black History Month.

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11:00 AMEmlen Tunnell was the first black player to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Born: March 29, 1925

Died: July 23, 1975

His story: Tunnell, born in Philadelphia, played football at the University of Toledo in 1942. He suffered a broken neck, which cut short his season, but he recovered in time to lead Toledo’s men’s basketball team to the National Invitation Tournament finals in 1943. He attempted to enlist in the U.S. Army and Navy during World War II but was denied because of his neck injury. He joined the U.S. Coast Guard and served from 1943-46. He finished his college career at the University of Iowa from 1946-47. He signed with the New York Giants in 1948, becoming the first black player to do so. He played defensive halfback and safety with the Giants until 1958 and spent his final three seasons with the Green Bay Packers, retiring in 1962. He played in nine Pro Bowls over his 14-year career and was part of two NFL championship teams in 1956 and ’61. His 79 career interceptions were an NFL record when he retired. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967, the first black player and first pure defensive player to be enshrined. He remained with the Giants from 1963-74 as a special assistant coach and defensive backs coach. (19651974).

Fast fact: His nickname was Emlen the Gremlin.

Quotable: Tunnell’s Packers teammates often came to him for guidance. “I’m old enough to preside over them, but still young enough to be part of them,” he said.

The Undefeated will profile an athlete each day during Black History Month.

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11:00 AMEmlen Tunnell was the first black player to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Born: March 29, 1925

Died: July 23, 1975

His story: Tunnell, born in Philadelphia, played football at the University of Toledo in 1942. He suffered a broken neck, which cut short his season, but he recovered in time to lead Toledo’s men’s basketball team to the National Invitation Tournament finals in 1943. He attempted to enlist in the U.S. Army and Navy during World War II but was denied because of his neck injury. He joined the U.S. Coast Guard and served from 1943-46. He finished his college career at the University of Iowa from 1946-47. He signed with the New York Giants in 1948, becoming the first black player to do so. He played defensive halfback and safety with the Giants until 1958 and spent his final three seasons with the Green Bay Packers, retiring in 1962. He played in nine Pro Bowls over his 14-year career and was part of two NFL championship teams in 1956 and ’61. His 79 career interceptions were an NFL record when he retired. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967, the first black player and first pure defensive player to be enshrined. He remained with the Giants from 1963-74 as a special assistant coach and defensive backs coach. (19651974).

Fast fact: His nickname was Emlen the Gremlin.

Quotable: Tunnell’s Packers teammates often came to him for guidance. “I’m old enough to preside over them, but still young enough to be part of them,” he said.

The Undefeated will profile an athlete each day during Black History Month.

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11:00 AMEmlen Tunnell was the first black player to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Born: March 29, 1925

Died: July 23, 1975

His story: Tunnell, born in Philadelphia, played football at the University of Toledo in 1942. He suffered a broken neck, which cut short his season, but he recovered in time to lead Toledo’s men’s basketball team to the National Invitation Tournament finals in 1943. He attempted to enlist in the U.S. Army and Navy during World War II but was denied because of his neck injury. He joined the U.S. Coast Guard and served from 1943-46. He finished his college career at the University of Iowa from 1946-47. He signed with the New York Giants in 1948, becoming the first black player to do so. He played defensive halfback and safety with the Giants until 1958 and spent his final three seasons with the Green Bay Packers, retiring in 1962. He played in nine Pro Bowls over his 14-year career and was part of two NFL championship teams in 1956 and ’61. His 79 career interceptions were an NFL record when he retired. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967, the first black player and first pure defensive player to be enshrined. He remained with the Giants from 1963-74 as a special assistant coach and defensive backs coach. (19651974).

Fast fact: His nickname was Emlen the Gremlin.

Quotable: Tunnell’s Packers teammates often came to him for guidance. “I’m old enough to preside over them, but still young enough to be part of them,” he said.

The Undefeated will profile an athlete each day during Black History Month.

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11:00 AMEmlen Tunnell was the first black player to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Born: March 29, 1925

Died: July 23, 1975

His story: Tunnell, born in Philadelphia, played football at the University of Toledo in 1942. He suffered a broken neck, which cut short his season, but he recovered in time to lead Toledo’s men’s basketball team to the National Invitation Tournament finals in 1943. He attempted to enlist in the U.S. Army and Navy during World War II but was denied because of his neck injury. He joined the U.S. Coast Guard and served from 1943-46. He finished his college career at the University of Iowa from 1946-47. He signed with the New York Giants in 1948, becoming the first black player to do so. He played defensive halfback and safety with the Giants until 1958 and spent his final three seasons with the Green Bay Packers, retiring in 1962. He played in nine Pro Bowls over his 14-year career and was part of two NFL championship teams in 1956 and ’61. His 79 career interceptions were an NFL record when he retired. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967, the first black player and first pure defensive player to be enshrined. He remained with the Giants from 1963-74 as a special assistant coach and defensive backs coach. (19651974).

Fast fact: His nickname was Emlen the Gremlin.

Quotable: Tunnell’s Packers teammates often came to him for guidance. “I’m old enough to preside over them, but still young enough to be part of them,” he said.

The Undefeated will profile an athlete each day during Black History Month.

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11:00 AMEmlen Tunnell was the first black player to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Born: March 29, 1925

Died: July 23, 1975

His story: Tunnell, born in Philadelphia, played football at the University of Toledo in 1942. He suffered a broken neck, which cut short his season, but he recovered in time to lead Toledo’s men’s basketball team to the National Invitation Tournament finals in 1943. He attempted to enlist in the U.S. Army and Navy during World War II but was denied because of his neck injury. He joined the U.S. Coast Guard and served from 1943-46. He finished his college career at the University of Iowa from 1946-47. He signed with the New York Giants in 1948, becoming the first black player to do so. He played defensive halfback and safety with the Giants until 1958 and spent his final three seasons with the Green Bay Packers, retiring in 1962. He played in nine Pro Bowls over his 14-year career and was part of two NFL championship teams in 1956 and ’61. His 79 career interceptions were an NFL record when he retired. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967, the first black player and first pure defensive player to be enshrined. He remained with the Giants from 1963-74 as a special assistant coach and defensive backs coach. (19651974).

Fast fact: His nickname was Emlen the Gremlin.

Quotable: Tunnell’s Packers teammates often came to him for guidance. “I’m old enough to preside over them, but still young enough to be part of them,” he said.

The Undefeated will profile an athlete each day during Black History Month.

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11:00 AMEmlen Tunnell was the first black player to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Born: March 29, 1925

Died: July 23, 1975

His story: Tunnell, born in Philadelphia, played football at the University of Toledo in 1942. He suffered a broken neck, which cut short his season, but he recovered in time to lead Toledo’s men’s basketball team to the National Invitation Tournament finals in 1943. He attempted to enlist in the U.S. Army and Navy during World War II but was denied because of his neck injury. He joined the U.S. Coast Guard and served from 1943-46. He finished his college career at the University of Iowa from 1946-47. He signed with the New York Giants in 1948, becoming the first black player to do so. He played defensive halfback and safety with the Giants until 1958 and spent his final three seasons with the Green Bay Packers, retiring in 1962. He played in nine Pro Bowls over his 14-year career and was part of two NFL championship teams in 1956 and ’61. His 79 career interceptions were an NFL record when he retired. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967, the first black player and first pure defensive player to be enshrined. He remained with the Giants from 1963-74 as a special assistant coach and defensive backs coach. (19651974).

Fast fact: His nickname was Emlen the Gremlin.

Quotable: Tunnell’s Packers teammates often came to him for guidance. “I’m old enough to preside over them, but still young enough to be part of them,” he said.

The Undefeated will profile an athlete each day during Black History Month.

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11:00 AMEmlen Tunnell was the first black player to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Born: March 29, 1925

Died: July 23, 1975

His story: Tunnell, born in Philadelphia, played football at the University of Toledo in 1942. He suffered a broken neck, which cut short his season, but he recovered in time to lead Toledo’s men’s basketball team to the National Invitation Tournament finals in 1943. He attempted to enlist in the U.S. Army and Navy during World War II but was denied because of his neck injury. He joined the U.S. Coast Guard and served from 1943-46. He finished his college career at the University of Iowa from 1946-47. He signed with the New York Giants in 1948, becoming the first black player to do so. He played defensive halfback and safety with the Giants until 1958 and spent his final three seasons with the Green Bay Packers, retiring in 1962. He played in nine Pro Bowls over his 14-year career and was part of two NFL championship teams in 1956 and ’61. His 79 career interceptions were an NFL record when he retired. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967, the first black player and first pure defensive player to be enshrined. He remained with the Giants from 1963-74 as a special assistant coach and defensive backs coach. (19651974).

Fast fact: His nickname was Emlen the Gremlin.

Quotable: Tunnell’s Packers teammates often came to him for guidance. “I’m old enough to preside over them, but still young enough to be part of them,” he said.

The Undefeated will profile an athlete each day during Black History Month.

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11:00 AMEmlen Tunnell was the first black player to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Born: March 29, 1925

Died: July 23, 1975

His story: Tunnell, born in Philadelphia, played football at the University of Toledo in 1942. He suffered a broken neck, which cut short his season, but he recovered in time to lead Toledo’s men’s basketball team to the National Invitation Tournament finals in 1943. He attempted to enlist in the U.S. Army and Navy during World War II but was denied because of his neck injury. He joined the U.S. Coast Guard and served from 1943-46. He finished his college career at the University of Iowa from 1946-47. He signed with the New York Giants in 1948, becoming the first black player to do so. He played defensive halfback and safety with the Giants until 1958 and spent his final three seasons with the Green Bay Packers, retiring in 1962. He played in nine Pro Bowls over his 14-year career and was part of two NFL championship teams in 1956 and ’61. His 79 career interceptions were an NFL record when he retired. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967, the first black player and first pure defensive player to be enshrined. He remained with the Giants from 1963-74 as a special assistant coach and defensive backs coach. (19651974).

Fast fact: His nickname was Emlen the Gremlin.

Quotable: Tunnell’s Packers teammates often came to him for guidance. “I’m old enough to preside over them, but still young enough to be part of them,” he said.

The Undefeated will profile an athlete each day during Black History Month.