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Iowa History Daily: March 29 - Emlen "The Gremlin" Tunnell

Iowa History Daily: On March 29, 1924, Hawkeye great Emlen “The Gremlin” Tunnell was born. A barrier-breaking athlete, Tunnel showed courage and valor on and off the gridiron while serving in World War II and carving out Hall of Fame football career.

Tunnell grew up in Pennsylvania and starred as a halfback at Radnor High School before initially enrolling at the University of Toledo. During the 1942, Tunnell broke his neck in a football game against Marshall, but bounced back to contribute on a Rockets basketball team which went to the finals of the 1943 NIT. Tunnell attempted to join both the Army and Navy following the 1943 academic year, only to find rejections due to his recently broken neck. Instead, he enlisted in the United States Coast Guard.

While training, Tunnell starred for the San Francisco Coast Guard Pilots football team before shipping out for service. In March 1946, while stationed at Naval Station Argentia in Newfoundland, Tunnell rescued a shipmate who fell from the USS Tampa. Tunnell jumped into the 32-degree water and saved his drowning shipmate. After discharge later in the year, Tunnell enrolled at Iowa.

Playing for the 1946 Iowa football team, Tunnell led the team with 541 yards of total offense and 28 pass completions and ranked second on the team with 333 rushing yards. On October 11, 1947, he set an Iowa single-game record with 155 receiving yards and three touchdowns on six receptions. 

In 1948, Tunnell signed with the New York Giants. Selected as a first-team All-Pro six times, Tunnell played in nine Pro Bowls. He played on NFL championship teams in 1956 and 1961, and when he retired he held NFL career records for interceptions (79), interception return yards (1,282), punt returns (258), and punt return yards (2,209). In 1967, Tunnell gained election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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