LSU's first unanimous All-American selection and former head football coach, Gaynell "Gus" Tinsley, died on Wednesday, July 24, at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center after a lengthy illness.
Tinsley, 87, played for the Purple and Gold in the 1934, 1935 and 1936 seasons and was the head football coach of the team for seven seasons, 1948-54.
Tinsley was the only unanimous choice on LSU's "Early Years Team of the Century," an 11-man team comprised of players who played at LSU from 1893 to 1936. The selection of that team was made in 1993 as part of LSU Football's 100th anniversary "Golden Century" celebration.
Tinsley is widely considered to be among the finest athletes to ever play at LSU. The star end led the Tigers to their first two SEC titles and played in two Sugar Bowls. He earned All-SEC and All-American honors in 1935-56 for his ability to dominate a game on both sides of the ball. In 1936, he was also second in balloting for national MVP honors.
LSU scored a national high 281 points in 1936, and Tinsley alone scored 48 points as LSU was voted the nation's best in the Deke Houlgate poll and second in the first Associated Press poll, with an unbeaten streak of 19 regular-season games, a record marred only by a 6-6 tie with Texas, and allowed only 13 points in their last seven games of the 1936 season.
At 6-3, 215 pounds, Tinsley was considered to the prototype end of his era because of his mobility.
The Homer, La., native played on a 1937 College All-Star team that defeated the Green Bay Packers, 6-0, in Chicago. In that game, Tinsley caught a 47-yard touchdown pass from "Slingin" Sammy Baugh of TCU for the game's only touchdown. One year earlier, Tinsley's pass rushing ability had terrorized Baugh in the 1936 Sugar Bowl, LSU's first bowl game that TCU won, 3-2.
Tinsley went on to become an All-Pro with the Chicago Cardinals and was widely considered to be the premier defensive end in all of football during his playing days. Despite that claim, his offensive skills continued to flourish, setting a NFL record of 675 yards in pass receptions in 1938, a season in which he caught 36 passes, 24 more than the Cardinals' No. 2 receiver. The next season, Tinsley tied Don Hutson's NFL record 41 receptions. When he quit pro ball after just three seasons to go into coaching, Tinsley was the NFL's fourth-ranked career pass catcher.
Following his career, Tinsley was selected to Pop Warner's and "Bronco" Nagurski's All-Time College Football All-American teams. Of Tinsley, Nagurski said, "Never have I seen an end who could do everything so well."
Tinsley later returned to his alma mater and served as head football coach at LSU from 1948-54 and was inducted into the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame, the LSU Athletic Hall of Fame and the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
Tinsley was coached by the legendary Bernie Moore at LSU and it was Moore that Tinsley replaced as head coach in 1948 when Moore took the job of SEC Commissioner. One of the highlight seasons as a coach was in 1949 when the Tigers finished the regular season 8-2 and found themselves in the Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma.
Moore once said of Tinsley the player, "Tinsley could have made All-American at any position. He was so tough, he made blockers quit. He's the greatest lineman I ever saw."
Tinsley finished his coaching career with a 35-34-6 mark. Prior to becoming the head coach, following a World War II stint in the Navy, he served as the head coach of Haynesville High in North Louisiana and was an assistant coach on Moore's staff at LSU for three years prior to his appointment