Emlen Tunnel – Defensive Back
Emlen Tunnel is my choice for the greatest Iowa Hawkeye in history. In two seasons for the Hawkeyes he started at quarterback, halfback and on defense; leading the team in passing in 1946 and receiving in 1947. Tunnel joined the NFL’s New York Giants in 1948, where he played for 11 years, before finishing his career in Green Bay under Vince Lombardi in 1961. When it was all said and done he had set the record for career interceptions (79: a record which stood until another member of this list broke it), nine Pro Bowls, two championships and a spot in the Hall of Fame, the first by an African-American.
Nile Kinnick – Halfback
Nile Kinnick came to Iowa in 1936 during one of the worst periods in the school’s football history. Despite Kinnick’s talented play, the team struggled in his freshman and sophomore years. Entering his junior season, Kinnick injured his ankle in the preseason and played through pain the entire year. Later reports indicated that the ankle might have actually been broken but Kinnick still managed an All-Big-Ten honorable mention. 1939 became one for the books when Kinnick, the now senior leader, lead the team to a 6-1-1 record while throwing for 638 yards with 11 touchdowns and rushing for 374 yards with 5 scores. A First-Team-All-American and Big Ten MVP, Kinnick won the only Heisman Trophy in Iowa’s history.
Paul Krause – Safety
Paul Krause started at both defensive back and wide receiver while at Iowa, tying the school’s record for touchdown passes in his senior year. Drafted by the Washington Redskins, he made the Pro Bowl in his rookie season after posting 12 interceptions. Krause hawked 28 balls in his first four seasons with Washington but was traded to the Minnesota Vikings. Krause appeared in four Super Bowls with the Vikings and only missed two games in his 16 NFL seasons. In 1979 he broke Emlen Tunnel’s interception record and set the new mark at 81, cementing his place in the Hall of Fame.
Chuck Long – Quarterback
Chuck Long is widely regarded as the best quarterback to ever play for Iowa. I can’t name anyone other than Long for the title considering how he lit up the scoreboard from the moment he took the field as a freshman. By the end of his sophomore year he owned nearly every school passing record. In his junior year Long finished seventh in the Heisman voting. In 1985, Long’s senior year, the Hawkeyes held the #1 ranking in the nation for a good portion of the season. Though Long lost his final game for Iowa in the 1986 Rose Bowl, he led the team to four winning seasons and holds one of the best completion percentages of any college football player. He finished second behind Bo Jackson for the Heisman.
Bob Sanders – Strong Safety
No list of memorable Hawkeyes is complete without Bob “The Hitman” Sanders. I remember the 5’8’’ Sanders best for playing with reckless abandon, routinely separating ball from ball carrier. Sanders brought a special kind of violence to the game and, in his final home game as a senior captain, he made 16 tackles and forced three fumbles. Sanders went on to win a Super Bowl and NFL Defensive Player of the Year award with the Indianapolis Colts despite his oft injured professional career.
Honorable Mentions: Shonn Greene, Dallas Clark, Chad Greenway, Robert Gallery and Tim Dwight