Sunday, October 23, 2011

Johnny Sample

During our career as journalists and photographers (a hobby that didn't cost us too much), we were fortunate to interview the great football player, Johnny Sample. We had been assigned to write a feature article about Emlin Tunnel, Radnor High School's claim to professional football history. After serving in WWII, Tunnel played for the New York Giants and the Green Bay Packers as a defensive player and a punt returner. He went with Lombardi to Green Bay after Lombardi left the Giants and played in the fabled 1960 championship game which the Philadelphia Eagles won. This was the only championship game that Lombardi ever lost.

We asked both former Eagle players, Tommy McDonald and Tom Brookshire about Tunnel and they both raved about his marvelous defensive skills. Johnny Sample played on that very same Green Bay Packers team and he told us great stories.

Sample met Tunnel at a Horn and Hardarts at 52nd and Market Streets and convinced Tunnel that a defensive player has a longer expected career than an offensive player. Tunnel listened to him and entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, Tunnel passed away at age 50 from a heart attack.

Sample also told us about his experiences with the Baltimore Colts under the ownership of Carol Rosenbloom. Before the joining of the NFL and the AFL, the Colts flew to Dallas to play and exhibition game. The team showed up at the hotel and the staff behind the desk stuttered and stumbled over words. Finally, the clerks said that some of the team could stay there, but, since no blacks were allowed, the rest of the team would have to find accommodations elsewhere and a seedy hotel, several blocks away, was suggested. The coach called Rosenbloom who told the team not to check in, return to the airport, and await his phone call.

Not more than a couple of hours later, Rosenbloom called the team and said that it was OK for the entire team to check into the hotel now. "How did you manage that? What did you say?" they asked him. His reply - "I bought the hotel, fired the staff, hired new people, and told them that my integrated team was coming."

Sample had a full career after he retired from football.

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