Mark Tuinei

Mark Tuinei
No. 71
Position: Offensive tackle
Personal information
Date of birth: (1960-03-31)March 31, 1960
Place of birth: Oceanside, California
Date of death: May 6, 1999(1999-05-06) (aged 39)
Place of death: Plano, Texas
Height: 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m)
Weight: 314 lb (142 kg)
Career information
High school: Honolulu (HI) Punahou
College: Hawaii
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Games played: 195
Games started: 147
Seasons: 15
Player stats at
Player stats at PFR

Mark Pulemau Tuinei (March 31, 1960 – May 6, 1999) was an American football offensive tackle in the National Football League for the Dallas Cowboys. Known as a "gentle giant", his career lasted for 15 years (1983–1997) and his ability to protect quarterback Troy Aikman and to run-block for running back Emmitt Smith helped them win Super Bowls in 1992, 1993, and 1995 and the NFC East Division in 1985 and 1992-96. He was also selected for the Pro Bowl in 1994 and 1995.

Early life

Tuinei was born in Oceanside, California, raised in Nanakuli, Hawai'i and attended Punahou School in Honolulu. He was named the Hawaii Prep Lineman of the Year as a senior, won the state shot put championship and was an All-Star basketball player, while playing on the same team with Barack Obama.[1]

College career

Tuinei played for two seasons at UCLA where he started at defensive tackle as a sophomore, finishing fifth on the team in tackles. The next year he decided to drop out of the school before facing the possibility of being expelled after a fight incident.[2]

As a junior he transferred back home to the University of Hawaii, but was suspended for the year, after being indicted on assault charges that led to spending three months in prison. He was nagged by injuries his senior year and played in only seven games.[3]

In 2007 he was inducted into the Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame.

Professional career

Tuinei was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Dallas Cowboys in 1983, making the team as a defensive tackle and backup to Randy White.

In 1985, the Cowboys offense needed help and like defensive tackles Blaine Nye and Pat Donovan before him, he was switched to the offensive line.

Tuinei played different positions along the offensive line until 1987, when he became a full-time starter at left tackle, eventually helping protect Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman and paving the way for Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith to become the NFL all-time leading rusher.

Although he was just one of those unsung players that goes out and does their job,[4] teammates admired Tuinei for his ability, toughness and human nature. He suffered knee injuries most of his career, yet he would play a total of 195 games.

Tuinei was a key member of the Cowboys offensive line, helping the team win Super Bowl XXVII, XXVIII, and XXX, along with the NFC East Division in 1985 and from 1992 to 1996. After 12 seasons, he was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1994 and 1995.

Knee problems ended his career after the 1997 season, when Larry Allen took over for him at left tackle. His role in some of the greatest offensive lines in NFL history was detailed in NFL Network's 2013 A Football Life: "the Great Wall of Dallas".

On April 14, 1998, he was released in a salary-cap move,[5] finishing tied with Ed "Too Tall" Jones and Bill Bates for the most seasons in a Cowboy uniform—with 15. He is considered to be one of the greatest offensive tackles in Cowboys franchise history.


In May 1999, Tuinei was found unconscious in his car and pronounced dead upon arrival at a hospital in the Dallas suburb of Plano. He had been planning to return to Punahou School as offensive line coach. The autopsy revealed that Tuinei died of a lethal combination of heroin and a form of the drug ecstasy. His death was ruled an accidental overdose. Upon the release of the autopsy, Plano police chief Bruce Glasscock was quoted as saying that it was Tuinei's first experience with heroin.[6]

"What you had was a 39-year-old male, 6'5", in excess of 300 pounds, a healthy individual, took one shot of heroin and basically dropped dead as a result," Glasscock said during his press conference regarding Tuinei.

The four individuals who worked for the drug ring that provided Tuinei with the lethal dose of heroin were later sentenced in Sherman, Texas. The men were charged, tried and convicted for conspiracy to distribute heroin and cocaine. Jesus Carbajal received a life sentence. Julian Solis Perez and Andres Milan were sentenced to eleven-year prison terms and Favian Ramos to a twelve-year sentence.

Personal life

His brother Tom Tuinei was an All-WAC defensive tackle at the University of Hawaii, before playing for the Detroit Lions and the Canadian Football League's Edmonton Eskimos.

In 1982, he played a small role as a Samoan college student in the episode "Italian Ice" of the TV series Magnum PI.


External links

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