Joe Tunnell dedicated 40 years of his life to high school football and to his players, and in the process, deeply etched his name into Oklahoma’s landscape.
Prior to his retirement at the end of the 1999 season, Tunnell won more games as a head coach than any other Oklahoma prep coach before him.
Although his victory total has since been eclipsed by the now-retired Bruce Hendrickson, Tunnell’s career mark of 322-137-7 still ranks him among the nation’s all-time elite prep coaches.
“He is one of the all-time greats,” said Foster, who played for Tunnell when he was at Lindsay High School and later spent 16 seasons as a member of Tunnell’s Rush Springs staff. “Football is such a big part of his life. He had such a passion for it when he coached, and he still does.”
He was revered as not only a fine Xs and Os coach, but for his ability to connect with his players and for his work as an educator.
“Joe was such a good teacher, both on the field and in the classroom. That was one of the reasons he was so successful,” said Mac Vincent, who spent 28 years as a Rush Springs school administrator.
Tunnell, now 70, attributed his success to his love for football and his student-athletes.
“More than anything, I enjoyed working with young people. That helps keep you young,” said Tunnell. “Jay C. Upchurch