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Giants Now: Coast Guard honors Giants legend Emlen Tunnell

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Coast Guard honors Giants legend Emlen Tunnell

Emlen Tunnell is well-known for his stellar NFL career that led to him being the first African American inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But what some might not know about the Giants legend is that he also served several years in the United States Coast Guard during and after World War II, where he was credited with saving the lives of two fellow shipmates in separate incidents.

The Coast Guard recently announced that they are posthumously honoring Tunnell for his service by naming a cutter and an athletic building on the Coast Guard Academy campus after him. The service "aims to highlight his little-known story and its own efforts to do better when it comes to race and celebrating diversity."

Following his time in the Coast Guard, he joined the Giants in 1948, becoming the first African American player to be signed and to play for the Giants.

The Hall of Fame defensive back went on to play 11 seasons with the Giants. Throughout his tenure with the franchise, he helped lead the team to an NFL Championship in 1956 while earning eight Pro Bowl and six First-Team All-Pro selections. Upon his retirement in 1962, Tunnell's 79 career interceptions were an NFL record. That figure currently ranks as the second-most in league history.

The Associated Press' Pat Eaton-Robb wrote about Tunnell's time with the Coast Guard:

[Tunnell was the first Black player signed by the New York Giants and later played for the Green Bay Packers. But not much was known about his Coast Guard service until 2008, when Cmdr. Bill McKinstry recognized Tunnell's name on the back of photograph showing a Coast Guard basketball team from the late 1940s.

His research uncovered a remarkable service career that Tunnell, who had been a steward's mate, had downplayed.

In April 1944, Tunnell was unloading fuel and explosives from a cargo ship in Papua New Guinea when it was hit by a Japanese torpedo. Tunnell used his bare hands to beat out flames that had engulfed a shipmate, suffering burns in the process. Two years later, while stationed in Newfoundland, Tunnell jumped into 32-degree Fahrenheit water to save another man who had fallen from the USS Tampa.

Given the context of what a Black steward's mate was expected or even allowed to do during that time in American history — largely restricted to duties like keeping the dishes on the ship clean — his accomplishments are all the more remarkable, McKinstry said.

"If you look at the pictures of him in uniform, he is the one African American in a sea of other people," McKinstry said. "It is so important that we take a look at these trailblazers, just like Mr. Tunnell and we honor them, because of all things they faced in laying the groundwork for where we are today in making a better future."]

In addition to his 14-year playing career, the final three which he spent with the Green Bay Packers, Tunnell also served as an assistant coach with the Giants from 1963-1974.

Tunnell was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967, becoming not only the first African American but also the first player to strictly play defensive back to be voted in. He was named to both the NFL's 50th and 100th Anniversary Teams, and was part of the first class of Giants to be enshrined in the franchise's Ring of Honor in 2010.

Photos from the life and career of Hall of Fame safety Emlen Tunnell

Mock Draft Tracker: Latest expert predictions for Giants at No. 11

The 2020 NFL season ended Sunday with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV.

That locked in the final two spots in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, which is just 11 weeks away. The 86th annual player selection meeting will take place in Cleveland from April 29 to May 1.

Below is a look at draft experts' latest projections for the Giants, who hold the No. 11 overall pick:

Pick: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

Analysis: "The Giants could enjoy a fantastic duo at tight end -- Pitts is versatile enough to play with [Evan] Engram and be moved around the formation -- and provide quarterback Daniel Jones with a playmaker."

Pick: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

Analysis: "At 6-foot-6, Pitts has the size/speed traits to line up out wide, in the slot or next to an offensive tackle. And he showed off his ability after the catch by averaging 17.9 yards per reception with 12 touchdowns. Pitts is not a traditional tight end, but he's a skilled offensive threat. And with Evan Engram on the roster, too, the Giants would have two of the most athletic -- and versatile -- tight ends in football."

Pick: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama

Analysis: "The Giants are all in with Daniel Jones and now they need to give him some weapons on the outside."

Pick: Gregory Rousseau , EDGE, Miami

Analysis: "Rousseau is an intriguing option for the Giants given his athleticism, length and sack production."

Pick: Kyle Pitts, WR/TE, Florida

Analysis: "Pitts can play tight end or wide receiver and create mismatches with his size, athleticism and ball skills."

Run Rich Run Continues to Benefit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

As Rich Eisen announced on the Super Bowl LV edition of NFL GameDay Morning, 'Run Rich Run' returns for the 17th year raising money and awareness for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.®

While Eisen may not be running his traditional 40-yard dash in Indianapolis at the NFL Scouting Combine this year, the 'Run Rich Run' campaign invites fans to run a "40" in any way they choose – whether that be a 40-yard dash, 40 steps, 40 minutes or even running 40 errands for a neighbor in need. Additionally, fans are encouraged to submit their "40" videos on social media using the hashtag #RunYour40.

'Run Rich Run' has served as a fitting conclusion to NFL Network's coverage of the NFL Scouting Combine since 2004. Eisen began supporting St. Jude through 'Run Rich Run' fundraising six years ago and has raised approximately $2.5 million to benefit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Fans around the globe have since rallied around Eisen's passion for this cause, knowing that not only will it be fun to participate, but their generous donations support research and treatment toward a cure for childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases. Continued participation will ensure that families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food – because all a family should worry about is helping their child live.

Since 2012, the NFL has partnered with St. Jude through NFL PLAY 60, which is the "Official Champion of Play" at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. As the League's national youth health and wellness campaign encouraging youth to get physically active for 60 minutes a day, the NFL PLAY 60 initiative helps patients and families at St. Jude cope with serious illnesses through play therapy, peer interaction and other activities.

As for Eisen, he will run his traditional 40-yard dash. Stay tuned for more details on when that will take place.

Re-live the most memorable moments and images from the first year of the Joe Judge era.