U.S. Coast Guard Honors Delaware County Legend Former NFL Player Emlen Tunnell

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RADNOR, Pa. (WPVI) – Emlen Tunnell, the first African American inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame, was honored across Philadelphia this week in several tributes.

Tunnell has been recognized as a Delaware County hometown hero and a pioneer in both the NFL and the US Coast Guard.

“He wanted to do whatever he could, for as long as he could,” said his goddaughter Mialee Anderson. “If you read his story, he made a lot of firsts. And in doing so, he set a precedent for others to follow.”

Tunnell was born to Bryn Mawr and graduated from Radnor High School.

He was the first African American to play for the New York Giants in 1948 and started out as an extra.

He then played for the Green Bay Packers in 1959. He is a two-time Super Bowl champion and Tunnell has played in numerous Pro Bowls.

“Emlen was a nice man to be a football player and a tall individual. He was actually a scout for the Giants when I was a Penn player,” said Don Clune, who knew Tunnell personally.

Tunnell is also commemorated in several tributes for his service during World War II.

“It is a great chance to celebrate and merge these two stories of a Coast Guard hero who receives the Lifesaving Silver Medal for saving two Coast Guard Guards,” said US Coast Guard Admiral Karl Schultz.

In April 1944 in Papua New Guinea, Tunnell suffered burns when he used his bare hands to rescue a sailor when a Japanese tornado hit the cargo.

Recently, the US Coast Guard named the 45th Fast Response Cutter in his honor. It is the first military vessel to bear the name of a professional athlete. Number 45 was Tunnell’s number with the New York Giants.

“Here’s a guy who doesn’t intend to be a pioneer or break glass ceilings,” Schultz said. “He was just a great human being who wanted to make a difference in the world.”

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