Scanning through the recent eBay auctions, this caught my eye. It’s a 1972 Burger King cup featuring then-San Francisco 49ers linebacker Frank Nunley. Nunley patrolled the middle for Bump Elliott’s Wolverines from 1964-1966, earning all-Conference his senior season.
I was able to connect with Nunley who explained why his face ended up on BK cup. “Len Rhode, 49er offensive tackle, owned a few Burger Kings around here. Still does,” Nunley wrote me. “He featured a different 49er each week. I think that is where this came from.”
It was during his stint in SF that Nunley earned his nickname, “Fudge Hammer”. According to Matt Maiocco’s book, San Francisco 49ers, Nunley owes the nickname to his NFL teammate Stan Hindman. Apparently Nunley didn’t possess an intimidating physique but could drill opposing players with the best of them, as in, “he looked like fudge but hit like a hammer.”
Frank Nunley was a freshman when I was a senior. I remember his first significant contribution to our 1964 team occurred when Dr. Barry Dehlin got a knee injury. He came running into the defensive huddle and asked, "What do I do?". I told him that Bill Yearby and I were going to knock the offensive line men on their asses and he would fill the hole and make the tackle. And for the rest of his college career and his 10 years with the Forty Niners that was exactly what he did.
Every year, there was a new group of talented LBs that wanted his job. But Frank kept on filling the hole and making the tackle. For nine years, he had to line up over Tom Mack of the LA Rams. To hear them talk, it always ended up as a draw. I suspect, however, that Tom may have had the upper hand since he is in the Hall of Fame. Frank insists that Tom got his credentials in all the other games.
As a player Frank always kept it simple–he just hit someone. He was not the strongest or the fastest LB, but he had the heart of a lion. He always made the tackle but no one ever go hurt from his forearm shiver. Frank played in the era of less pay and needed to have a career outside of football. He worked in the off season and founded Nunley and Associates and was a very successful manufacturing rep at the birth of Silicon Valley.
He is a great Michigan man and family man and remains very close to his wife Lynn since she manages the money. Frank and I still visit on a regular basis when we can and enjoy talking Michigan.
Today Nunley sells electronic assembly for Sanmina, a contract manufacturer, and he’s been a rep there for the past 12 years.
You can buy the Nunley cup for $18.99 on eBay right now.
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