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Cover 3: Conversations with Giants


The New York Giants are offering a chance to win a one-on-one video chat with quarterback Daniel Jones. That got us thinking: If you could have a conversation with any person in Giants history, who would it be? The crew discusses.

John Schmeelk: I have to go with defensive back Emlen Tunnell, who played for the Giants from 1948-1958 and later worked for the organization as an assistant coach, scout and front office employee. Tunnell was both the first African-American player for the Giants and the first African-American assistant coach in the NFL.

Tunnell tried to enlist in the Army and Navy in World War II, but a broken neck he suffered playing for Toledo in 1942 led to his rejection. Instead, he enlisted in the Coast Guard, where he saved a crew member from a fire (burning his own hands putting out the flames) when his ship was hit by a torpedo in 1944 at Papua New Guinea. In 1946, Tunnell rescued a shipmate who fell into 32 degree water in New Foundland. He was a real-life hero and was awarded the Silver Lifesaving Medal posthumously in 2011. The Coast Guard also plans to name its 45th Sentinel Class Cutter after him, the USCGC Emlen Tunnell.

On the field, Tunnell set the record for most interceptions in NFL history, and still ranks second in that category. He set the record for most punt return yards, and still ranks 30th. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1967, was a six-time first team All-Pro, nine-time Pro Bowl selection, a member of the 1950's All-Decade team, a member of the 100th Anniversary All-NFL team and a two-time World Champion.

Tunnell was also part of some special moments. He played in the "Greatest Game Ever Played" against the Baltimore Colts in 1958 and won a championship with both the Giants (1956) and the Packers (1961). He played under assistant coach Tom Landry for the Giants and under Vince Lombardi when he was head coach of the Packers. The stories he must have had about those two, and teammates like Frank Gifford, Sam Huff, Dick Lynch (who he coached with the Giants and I knew personally when he was older and the color commentator on Giants radio broadcasts), Bart Starr, Paul Hornung and Jerry Kramer would be priceless.

Ironically, he played college football at Iowa, my wife's home state. We could compare notes on that, too. I could talk to the man for hours, or days. Tragically, Tunnell passed away from a heart attack at only 51 years of age in 1975. If I had to pick one Giants player, he would be it.

Dan Salomone: How about the founder himself? Tim Mara, a bookmaker (legal at the time) and successful businessman and promoter, purchased the team for a reported $500. Tell me you don't want to hear that story directly from him.

Think about how far the team and league have come since 1925. It was an era when professional football was overshadowed by baseball, boxing and college football, and professional football teams hailed from towns like Dayton, Rochester and Columbus. League officials knew having a team in a large market such as New York was exactly what was needed to keep pro football alive.

The Giants struggled financially through the first decade but managed to win their first title in only their third season, going 11-1-1 in 1927. Then the stock market crashed and The Depression followed. Tim Mara suffered substantial losses that threatened the existence of the Giants. With that fear in mind, Tim Mara handed control of the franchise over to his two sons, Jack Mara, who was 22, and Wellington, who was 14. Wellington Mara became the youngest owner of a football team and began his storied career.

Lance Medow: Lawrence Taylor would be the most entertaining video chat based on his resume on and off the field. He'd have stories that would last for days but given there's so much that is already well-documented about him, I'd choose a player who doesn't have that same luxury and that's why my choice would be Frank Gifford, who played for the Giants from 1952-60 and then from 1962-64. Let's face it, although Gifford was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it's fair to say players from his generation are easily overlooked. The game has changed so much from equipment to technology to strategy that I think he'd provide a great deal of perspective and several interesting stories.

Gifford was ahead of his time because he was a triple-threat on offense: he could throw, run and catch the football. If that doesn't say enough about his versatility, how about the fact he made the Pro Bowl at three different positions: defensive back, running back and flanker (wide receiver). Gifford threw for 14 touchdowns in his career, which still stands as an NFL record for most among non-quarterbacks.

Given my passion for broadcasting, I'd love to discuss his transition from decorated football player to Emmy Award-winning sportscaster. Gifford served as a play-by-play announcer and commentator for nearly three decades on ABC's Monday Night Football, Wide World of Sports and the Olympics. He also made several guest appearances on television shows, so his career off the field was just as fascinating and versatile as it was when he wore a Giants uniform.


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