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Arnold Tucker, 95, Celebrated but Overshadowed Quarterback, Is Dead


Arnold Tucker was an All-America quarterback who helped lead Army to undefeated seasons and national championships within the mid-Nineteen Forties, received a coveted award because the country’s outstanding amateur athlete and would at some point be enshrined within the College Football Hall of Fame.

Yet despite all that, it was his fate to be eclipsed on the sphere by two of faculty football’s most celebrated players of that era: his backfield mates Felix (Doc) Blanchard and Glenn Davis, Heisman Trophy-winning running backs remembered in football lore as Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside.

So there was perhaps a little bit of symmetry at play when Tucker died on Jan. 10, 2019, five days after his ninety fifth birthday: As he was overshadowed on the gridiron, his death went largely missed.

There was a paid death notice published online and buried within the pages of The Miami Herald that January. And at the top of the 12 months The Associated Press listed Tucker (just his name and age) amongst the numerous “notable sports deaths in 2019.” But his death was otherwise not widely reported within the mainstream press, which had, almost 80 years ago, chronicled his and Blanchard and Davis’s gridiron exploits and later, when their time got here, gave each Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside substantial obituaries, Blanchard’s in 2009 and Davis’s in 2005.

Reached by phone on Tuesday, Tucker’s daughter, Patricia Nugent, confirmed his death. And when asked why it hadn’t gotten much publicity, she said that she had never reached out to the national news media. The Times discovered he had died in searching for to update an obituary about him that was prepared prematurely in 2010.

Tucker was integral to Army’s war-era success as a part of three undefeated national championship squads, the title then largely determined by an Associated Press poll of newspaper sports editors. Looking back in 1976, the sportswriter Allison Danzig, who had covered Army football for The Latest York Times, called Blanchard, Davis and Tucker “probably the best backfield triumvirate in modern times, if not of all time.”

Army had been capable of assemble such a robust squad after college transfer rules were loosened during World War II, when many potential recruits were serving within the military. America Military Academy at West Point lured Blanchard away from the University of North Carolina and Tucker from the University of Miami, each after his freshman season. Tucker was Army’s third-string quarterback as a sophomore and the starter as a junior and senior.

Blanchard was a robust but fast fullback. Davis, a halfback, was even faster. But in an era before plays were signaled in from the bench, it was Tucker, at 5-foot-9 and 172 kilos, who called the plays and made the offense work because the T-formation quarterback.

Their Army team was so strong that Coach Red Blaik and three of his assistants felt comfortable passing up a 1945 game against an overmatched Villanova squad in order that they may scout the sport between Notre Dame and Navy, two future stronger opponents. Army routed Villanova, 54-0, and went on to defeat Notre Dame by 48-0 and Navy by 32-13.

At a time when college rules restricted substitutions, Tucker played not only quarterback but in addition safety, punt returner and kickoff returner. The one blemish on his team’s records was a 0-0 tie in a game against unbeaten Notre Dame in 1946 at Yankee Stadium.

That very same 12 months he earned first-team All-America honors and got here in fifth in Heisman Trophy balloting — behind Blanchard and Davis, after all. (Davis won the trophy that 12 months; Blanchard got his the 12 months before.)

But before graduating in 1947, Tucker won the Sullivan Award as America’s outstanding amateur athlete. He was drafted by the Chicago Bears but never played skilled football. For several years within the mid-Nineteen Fifties he was an assistant coach at West Point to Vince Lombardi, who went on to glory with the Green Bay Packers.

From 1947 to 1976, Tucker served within the Army and Air Force in lots of capacities, including transport pilot through the Korean War. He retired as a lieutenant colonel, having been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal and other honors.

Tucker married Patricia Small in 1947. She died in 1998. Along with Ms. Nugent, his daughter, Tucker is survived by two grandsons. His son, Arnold Thomas Tucker, often known as Tom, died in 2014.

Young Arnold Tucker (Young was his given name) was born on Jan. 5, 1924, in Calhoun Falls, S.C. He played highschool football in Miami.

He began college at Notre Dame but left after a number of weeks because, he said, he didn’t just like the cold Indiana weather. He entered the Navy’s V-12 program, which might have led to a commission, and as a naval assignee attended the University of Miami, playing quarterback for the Hurricanes. He was discharged from the Navy in July 1944 in order that he could receive his appointment to West Point.

“I used to be discharged from the Navy to enter the U.S. Military Academy,” he told The Miami Herald in 2008. “I reported in my sailor suit.”

In three seasons at West Point, on a team that threw the ball infrequently, Tucker passed for 1,127 yards and 10 touchdowns. In 1946, as a security, he intercepted eight passes, an Army single-season record. He was also captain of Army’s basketball team.

Tucker was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2008 — 62 years after he last walked off a school playing field. His induction got here because of a special committee that reviewed oversights.

Frank Litsky, a longtime sportswriter for The Times, died in 2018. Alex Traub contributed reporting.

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