Jul 22, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin answers questions from media during training camp at Quest Diagnostics Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Hall of Fame Game Countdown: 4 Days till Giants Football

Hall of Fame

In four days, on Sunday night August 3rd, the New York Football Giants will take on the Buffalo Bills in Canton, Ohio in the annual Hall of Fame game.

Four days until football. Let’s talk about, four. Now… the amusing thing about the word FOUR is that its pronunciation is also related to a trio of words, and not a quartet of terms like would make sense. Digress. That said, the three words in the group are: Four, For and Fore

The most common member of this trio is the preposition “for,” which is not a problem for most people. “Fore” always has to do with the front of something (it’s what you shout to warn someone when you’ve sent a golf ball their way). “Four” is just the number “4.”

Four may indeed just be the number “4”, but today, four is significant. Not only is it the number of days until you will be watching the New York Giants actually play football, it’s also a number that’s retired in the annals of Giants history. Why “for” is the number four retired? It’s because (for) Tuffy Leemans (#4), that’s why.

We could almost end the piece on that sentence. After all, once you utter the name”Tuffy Leemans”, what else needs to be said? Nowadays, probably a lot. Tuffy Leemans has been laid to rest longer than I’ve been alive and he lived a fairly long time ago. To put that length of time into perspective, consider this: most people think of Tom Coughlin as old, it’s a Internet meme these days, your head coach is no spring chicken, Giants Nation. The point is, even in all his old age mockery, Tom Coughlin was born a FULL decade after Tuffy Leemans was drafted in 1936.

Which also happened to be the first ever NFL Draft, wherein Tuffy Leemans was the 18th pick of the second round by the New York Giants. With four days until the Hall of Fame game, it’s important to note that as a Giants #4, Tuffy had a Hall of Fame career and was inducted in 1979. However, Tuffy was not alone in this draft class, as Leemans joins: Joe StydaharWayne Millner , and Danny Fortmann as the four members of the first ever draft class to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Forever immortalized in Canton.

For most Giants fans, Tuffy Leemans number four was before their time, but the legend still exists. What a name, Tuffy, he was a man that did it all in the NFL. He played QB, FB, TB, DB, and he was even a player-coach in his final season in 1943. Most people know December 7, 1941 as the day Pearl Habor was attacked, but for a short time, that day was intended to be “Tuffy Leemans Day”. Here’s some more information in an old 2005 story from the Washington Times titled, Tuffy Leemans Day turned tragic in 1941:

Alphonse Emil “Tuffy” Leemans, one of the best college football players ever to come out of the District, had become the toast of the Big Apple. The New York Giants were tossing a “day” with gifts galore for their star halfback, and many of the 55,051 appreciative fans at the Polo Grounds had chipped in to buy him $1,500 worth of defense bonds.

This was a day to remember — and it was but for a different reason. At about 2 p.m. EST, as the Giants’ Ward Cuff was kicking off to the Brooklyn Dodgers, one of the worst disasters in American history began to unfold six time zones to the west.

It was Dec. 7, 1941 — “a date which will live in infamy,” as President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously called it in his war message to a joint session of Congress the next day. Later no one would remember it also had been Tuffy Leemans Day, not even his biggest fans.

The read is terrific, but it’s also horrifying in its brutal reality. Enshrined with Tuffy Leemans in Canton is a game program, if you travel to the Hall of Fame game, make sure to check out Tuffy Leemans wing. According to the article, it’s said to feature:

And though Leemans is not as well known as many other NFL greats, visitors to the Pro Football Hall of Fame will find two reminders of his greatness. The first, of course, is the handsome bust that adorns his niche.

The second is a game program from Dec.7, 1941, showing him on the cover and celebrating Tuffy Leemans Day — at least one lasting reminder of a joyous occasion that swiftly turned tragic.

When referring to such a painful American story, it’s hard to switch back to the topic of football. But that’s what this is about. Tuffy Leemans, the Hall of Fame Giants player that has his number retired because he was great. If you visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame website online and read Tuffy’s biography, it states:

During his outstanding eight-year career, he was named first- or second team all-league every year from 1936 through 1942, by either or both the NFL and a major wire service. A versatile player, at one time or another played fullback or halfback and excelled on defense. At the same time and certainly as a direct result of his play, the Giants were consistently contending for a title berth.

A native of Superior, Wisconsin, Leemans finished his pro career in 1943 with 3,132 yards rushing, 28 receptions for 422 yards, and 2,318 yards passing to his credit. He scored 17 touchdowns rushing, three on receptions, and passed for 25 more.

His career ledger also includes punt return and pass interception statistics. His marks become even more significant when it is remembered that the Giants of that era employed a system that saw two separate units divide playing time both offensively and defensively.

Tuffy played offense, defense and special teams. He was all over the field. Nowadays in sports, it’s hard to get athletes to participate in much of anything without hitting them with millions of dollars and an insurance waiver of some form. Back then, a “Tuffy Leemans Day” meant celebrating one of the toughest players in the NFL, a player out there giving it everything he had, every play, for an entire game with a leather hat on.

That’s toughness, that’s TUFFY LEEMANS.

The New York Football Giants are playing football in four days, FOUR, for Tuffy Leemans. Forever.

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Tags: Hall Of Fame New York Giants Tom Coughlin Tuffy Leemans

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