Remembering Emlen Tunnell from Bryn Mahr

At Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia before the opening game in 1975, the announcer asked for a moment of silence for Emlen Tunnell, who died the previous week at 51. Emlen Tunnell was born in Bryn Mahr, Pa, a main line suburb of Philadelphia 15 miles west on the Lancaster Pike. It is a stop on the commuter rail but not for Amtrak. Tunnell was Bryn Mahr’s third claim to history. It was the birthplace of the Barrymores, the first family of the American Theater.  I will never forget the famous line from Lionel Barrymore in Duel in the Sun. “I once fought for that flag. I’ll not fire on it.”

When contractors renovated the Bellevue Stratford in 1992, the hotel became shops, offices, three floors of rooms, and the Barrymore Restaurant on the top level. The restaurant is the Ethel Barrymore Room, the Piano Bar with tables and library, the Lionel Barrymore Room; not surprisingly the section with only a bar is the John Barrymore Room. Somebody finally took my idea in I had 1970. I am sorry I never wrote about it.

Wilson was President for Bryn Mahr College for about three years before becoming President of Princeton, Governor of New Jersey and President. I suppose Wilson used Bryn Mahr as a training ground for the future.

In 1924 Emlen Tunnel was born there. Playing less than three years at some mid western university, the Giants drafted him in 1949. He quickly became the point man in the Giants’ secondary, similar to Ronnie Lott with San Francisco or Darrell Green with Washington. A very versatile player, Emlen held the records for number, yards, and touchdowns in both interceptions and punt returns.
During his years in New York he became very friendly with Vince Lombardi, the offensive line coach rather than Tom Landry, the secondary coach. Unfortunately for Tunnell, his most famous picture is Jim Parker blocking him letting Alan Ameche go one yard for the overtime victory in the 1958 title game. That was a real slamming of Titans, Parker and Tunnell being the best at their positions.

After 1958, Vince Lombardi become the head coach at Green Bay and took
Tunnell with him. I am not certain of the circumstances. Tunnell was a player coach for the Packers for three years. In the first year Packers went from 1-10-1 to 7-5. The dynasty began in 1960 when the Packers played the Eagles at Franklin Field for the NFL Championship. Somehow they managed to lose to Philadelphia 17 to 13, totally outplaying the Eagles and decimating the defensive line.

One of the promising picks in the draft after the 1960 season
was all American Herb Adderley, a running and defensive back for Michigan State in the days of two way football. I do not know the order that Green Bay drafted him. It would have been next to last unless they traded for an earlier one. Since Adderley was originally from Philadelphia, I do not how much Tunnell had to do with picking him. One thing is certain-Tunnell played a big part with this future Hall of Famer’s development. Though not articulate, Tunnel was savvy about people and the finer points of the game. Analysts say that either a quarterback or a defensive back is toughest position for a rookie. Herb Adderly had no learning curve and was an All Pro Pro from the moment he took the field. I can imagine the satisfaction for both Lombardi and Tunnell when the Packer defeated the New York Giants twice in 1961. There was a close win during the season and the NFL Championship-Green Bay 37 New York 0.Tunnell retired from playing after 1961 but stayed with Green Bay in 1962 as a coach. Then he returned to the Giants as an Assistant Coach.

Unlike a few other NFL cities such as Pittsburgh, Miami, San Francisco or Boston, Philadelphia does not have a rich College Football tradition. I hope in some of those Sports Bars in Philadelphia, there are pictures of both Emlen Tunnell and Herb Adderly. The city should show off all local talent.


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