HOF Spotlight: Emlen Tunnell

Name: Emlen Tunnell
Position: Defensive Back
Pro Career: 1948 – 1961
Team Affiliation(s): New York Giants, Green Bay Packers
College: Toledo, Iowa
Induction Class: 1967

Brief Bio: As the era of do-it-all, 60-minute players was drawing to a close in the late 1940s, specialists began to emerge; perhaps none as successful as Emlen Tunnell. Known for his special teams prowess and even more so for his defensive abilities, Tunnell was the backbone of the legendary New York Giants “umbrella defense,” which dominated opponents during the 1950s. He was dubbed the Giants’ “offense on defense” and for good reason. In 1952, Tunnell gained more yards (924) on interceptions and kick returns than the league’s leading rusher. By the time he finally hung up his cleats for the last time after 14 seasons, Tunnell was the career leader in interceptions and punt returns, had been named All-NFL six times, and played in nine Pro Bowls. Even after his career, his accomplishments were noted as he was named the NFL’s All-Time Safety in 1969. Despite his incredible accomplishments on the field, Tunnell would also be written into the history books as the first African-American to play for the Giants and the first African-American to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Career Stats: 167 games played; 79 INTs; 1,282 INT yards, 4 INT TDs; 2,217 punt return yards; 5 punt return TDs; 1,215 kickoff return yards; 1 kickoff return TD

1951 Bowman #91

Featured Card: 1951 Bowman #91. Despite being a walk-on free agent with the New York Giants to start his career, there is little wonder why Tunnell was included in the 1951 Bowman set. Trivial Beckett value is $100 and for once, this seems to be fairly accurate as several listings on eBay fall in just under this threshold. There is, however, an obvious markup for graded copies as most PSAs holding a 7 or 8 are listed for upwards of $500-600.

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