Standing on the sidewalk outside of Ryan Field in a purple Northwestern jacket, 87-year-old Ed Tunnicliff (Communication ’50) looked like an average longtime Wildcat football fan. But Tunnicliff has an indelible place in Northwestern sports history, having scored the winning touchdown in the football team’s 1949 Rose Bowl victory.
The former Wildcat halfback returned to campus Friday to contribute his Rose Bowl game jersey to University Archives. He also took the opportunity to tour the football program’s current facilities, meet with head coach Pat Fitzgerald, revisit the 1949 Rose Bowl trophy and share his memories of an unforgettable era in Northwestern football.
“If you look back through Northwestern’s history, when they had good teams, it was because they had depth,” he said. “When I was there, we had all the veterans coming back from four years of war and then all of the freshmen coming in as well, so we had all kinds of depth, and it made a difference.”
That depth led to the team’s first and only Rose Bowl victory — an accomplishment that is still heralded by the Northwestern community today. After talking to University archivist Kevin Leonard, Tunnicliff decided to donate one of his most cherished Rose Bowl relics — the number 15 jersey he wore during the game — to the university’s collection of historic memorabilia.
Tunnicliff retired from the life insurance business 28 years ago and now spends most of his time fishing in Mountain Home, Ark. He didn’t want to make any predictions about future Rose Bowl appearances, but he has avidly followed the good fortunes of the current Wildcat squad and is hopeful about their future success.
“They’re tremendous,” he said. “I’m just keeping my fingers crossed, especially for next Saturday [Oct. 5] against Ohio State.”
After meeting with Coach Fitzgerald, Tunnicliff summed up what makes Northwestern’s football program special — both in his day and today.
“The main thing here at Northwestern is academics, as well it should be, and you were expected to do the same thing that any other student did,” he said. “That whole attitude about education being most important just permeates everything and you just feel confident.”