Mel Hein’s 50-yard interception return in this game was the only touchdown this great lineman would ever score in his 15-year career. Hein played center on offense and linebacker on defense and was team captain for 10 seasons. For the first 50 years of the franchise, this charter member of the Hall of Fame was indisputably the greatest of all Giants. The team retired his No. 7 jersey.
Hein was not approached by any pro teams at the conclusion of his college career at Washington State, so he took the initiative and wrote to a few offering his services. The Providence Steamroller offered $125 a game and Hein returned a signed contract, but then the Giants wrote offering $150 a game. Hein then wired the Providence postmaster to request the return of his letter. Luckily for the Giants, the Providence contract was returned.
In New York, Mel was an eight-time All-Pro, played on seven conference champs, and won two NFL titles. In the championship year of 1938, the 6’3″, 230-pound Hein was even named NFL MVP, the only time an interior lineman has ever been so honored.
During World War II, Hein was known as the “Sunday Center” because he coached at Union College in upstate New York during the week and came into the city on Sunday to play for the Giants. After he finally did retire, he spent 20 years as a line coach with the Rams, the New York Yankees of the AAFC, and the USC Trojans. He finished his football career as the supervisor of officials in the AFL and then in the AFC from 1965 to 1974. Only Michael Strahan, who announced his retirement in June 2008, played as long in a Giants jersey.
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Tuffy Leemans’s 75-yard gallop in this game was the longest run of his career. As his nickname suggests, Tuffy was noted not for his speed and elusiveness, but for his toughness. As a Giants player, he also passed, called signals, blocked, and played defense.
Alphonse “Tuffy” Leemans was personally scouted and signed by the 20-year-old Wellington Mara in 1936; he was the second player ever drafted by New York. As a rookie, Leemans led the NFL in rushing with 830 yards, but he would never again come within 350 yards of that total in his eight-year career.
He was a reliable pro who took on the team’s play-calling and passing responsibilities after the retirement of Ed Danowski in 1940. In 1941, Leemans led the Giants in both passing and rushing. The Giants honored him with Tuffy Leemans Day on December 7, 1941, but the Pearl Harbor attack upstaged the tribute. During the war, a football injury kept Tuffy out of the military and on the playing field.
Leemans was a two-time All-Pro who five times gained more than 100 yards in a game and twice led the league in rushing average. While he gained just 3,142 yards rushing, his No. 4 jersey was retired by the Giants, and Tuffy was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1978 shortly before his death.
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