Tunch Ilkin
refer to caption
Ilkin in 2009
No. 62, 79
Position:Offensive tackle
Personal information
Born:(1957-09-23)September 23, 1957
Istanbul, Turkey
Died:September 4, 2021(2021-09-04) (aged 63)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Height:6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
Weight:263 lb (119 kg)
Career information
High school:Highland Park (IL)
College:Indiana State
NFL Draft:1980 / Round: 6 / Pick: 165
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Games played:177
Games started:143[1]
Player stats at NFL.com · PFR

Tunch Ilkin (Turkish: Tunç Ali İlkin; September 23, 1957 – September 4, 2021) was a Turkish-American football player and sports broadcaster. A two-time Pro Bowl selection as an offensive tackle with the Pittsburgh Steelers, he was the first Turk to play in the National Football League (NFL).[2][3] He was voted to the Pittsburgh Steelers All-Time Team. After his playing career, he was a television and radio analyst for the Steelers from 1998 to 2020.[4]

Playing career

Ilkin was born in Istanbul, Turkey; his parents Mehmet and Ayten Ilkin emigrated to the United States when he was two years old and settled in the Chicago area.[5] He attended Highland Park High School in Highland Park, Illinois, where he won All Conference and All County honors as a football player. In 1975, he was granted an athletic scholarship to Indiana State University, where he played for head coaches Tom Harp (1975–77) and Dick Jamieson;[6] a three-time All-Missouri Valley Conference pick,[7] he was chosen by the Steelers in the sixth round of the 1980 NFL Draft.[8]

Ilkin played offensive tackle for the Steelers from 1980 to 1992, earning two Pro Bowl appearance honors (1988 and 1989). He played for the Green Bay Packers in 1993 before retiring from football. Ilkin served as vice president of the NFL Players' Association from 1989 to 1994. He was named to the Pittsburgh Steelers All-Time Team in 2007.[5]

Broadcasting career

After retiring from football, Ilkin began appearing as a commentator and reporter on sports broadcasts in the Pittsburgh market and, nationally, worked as a game analyst for NBC during the 1995 NFL season. He was paired with either Dan Hicks or Jim Donovan.[5]

In 1998, he joined the official Steelers broadcasting team of Myron Cope and Bill Hillgrove as an analyst.[9] After Cope's retirement following the 2004 season, the team decided not to replace Cope, and Ilkin took on the color-commentary duties once carried by Cope.[9] He worked alongside sideline reporter and former teammate Craig Wolfley, who, like Ilkin, joined the Steelers via the 1980 draft. Ilkin and Wolfley hosted a morning radio show called In The Locker Room with Tunch and Wolf on WBGG. After 2006, In The Locker Room was broadcast daily during the football season: locally on 970 ESPN in Pittsburgh, and nationally on Steelers Nation Radio (SNR).[10]

Business interests

Ilkin was the senior vice president of the Athletic Training Network, a company that provides athletic training and program material to coaches and players.[11][12] Ilkin also co-authored two books during his broadcasting career: In the Locker Room, and Forged In Steel.[5]

Ilkin was an active supporter of the nonprofit organization Light of Life Rescue Mission,[6] a homeless shelter and addiction recovery ministry on Pittsburgh's North Side for over 30 years.[13]

Personal life

Ilkin was married on April 24, 1982, to Sharon Senefeld, and they had three children: Tanner, Natalie, and Clay.[14] The Ilkins resided in Upper St. Clair Township, Pennsylvania. On February 6, 2012, his wife Sharon died following a lengthy battle with cancer.[15] In 2013, he married Karen Rafferty.[16] A convert from Islam to Christianity,[17] Ilkin was the pastor of Men's Ministry for The Bible Chapel, a multi-site church in South Hills, Pittsburgh.[18]

During a November 2013 visit to Turkey, he took part in activities of the Istanbul Cavaliers, and was interviewed by the sports newspaper Fanatik. Ilkin said in that interview that he would have liked to coach an American football team in Turkey.[19]

On October 9, 2020, Ilkin announced that he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).[20] Ilkin made the announcement six months before one of his contemporaries, former Chicago Bears defensive lineman Steve McMichael, announced his own ALS diagnosis.[21] The Pittsburgh City Council declared December 21, 2020, as Tunch Ilkin Day in Pittsburgh.[13][5] On June 3, 2021, Ilkin announced his retirement from broadcasting so he could focus on his treatment.[22] Ilkin died of ALS complications on September 4, 2021, at the age of 63.[23] Following his death, the episode of Pittsburgh Dad did about the Steelers Week 1 matchup against the Buffalo Bills did a "In memory of..." tribute to Ilkin.[24]


See also


  1. ^ "Tunch Ilkin Stats". Pro-Football-Reference.com.
  2. ^ "The Rumble". The New York Post. March 3, 2013. Retrieved September 4, 2021. He can fall back on a degree in finance, but he would rather follow in the mobile, agile footsteps of former Steelers offensive lineman Tunch Ilkin, the lone NFL player of Turkish descent.
  3. ^ Shawn Nottingham and Christina Maxouris (September 4, 2021). "Former NFL player Tunch Ilkin dies at 63". CNN.
  4. ^ Bailey, Analis. "Former Steelers player, longtime broadcaster Tunch Ilkin dies at 63 after battling ALS". USA TODAY.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Player, broadcaster Tunch Ilkin, 63". www.steelers.com.
  6. ^ a b report, Tribune-Star staff and AP. "Sycamore legend Tunch Ilkin dead at 63". Terre Haute Tribune-Star.
  7. ^ "Indiana State Hall of Famer Tunch Ilkin passes away at age 63". Indiana State University Athletics.
  8. ^ "1980 NFL Draft". Archived from the original on June 25, 2003. Retrieved February 17, 2007.
  9. ^ a b Haring, Bruce (September 4, 2021). "Tunch Ilkin Dies: Pro Bowl Tackle And Broadcaster With Pittsburgh Steelers Was 63".
  10. ^ "Radio Network Broadcast Team announced". www.steelers.com.
  11. ^ "NFL Veteran & Inspirational Speaker Tunch Ilkin". talent network, inc.
  12. ^ Bouchette, Ed (March 7, 2003). "Steelers Notes: Ilkin clinic to initiate video tour". Post-Gazette. Retrieved September 7, 2021.
  13. ^ a b Saunders, Alan (December 21, 2020). "City Council Proclaims Dec. 21 is Tunch Ilkin Day in Pittsburgh". Steelers Now.
  14. ^ "SHARON ILKIN Obituary (2012) – McMurray, PA". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  15. ^ "Cook: A death in Ilkin's family". February 17, 2012. Archived from the original on September 28, 2013.
  16. ^ "Spring has yet to arrive here". March 24, 2013. Archived from the original on September 27, 2013.
  17. ^ Gogniat Eidemiller, Maryann (April 6, 2004). "Ilkin to share story of faith". TribLive.com. Retrieved September 7, 2021.
  18. ^ "Staff | The Bible Chapel". The Bible Chapel. Archived from the original on December 9, 2019.
  19. ^ fanatik. "NFLde Oynamış İlk ve Tek Türk: Tunç İlkin". Fanatik (in Turkish). Retrieved September 7, 2021.
  20. ^ Saunders, Alan (October 9, 2020). "Longtime Steelers OL, Broadcaster Tunch Ilkin Diagnosed with ALS". SteelersNow. Retrieved September 7, 2021.
  21. ^ Liberatore, Joel (April 23, 2021). "Former Chicago Bear Steve 'Mongo' McMichael reveals he is battling ALS". wgntv.com. Retrieved April 23, 2021.
  22. ^ "Tunch to focus on treatment". www.steelers.com.
  23. ^ "Former Steelers broadcaster Tunch Ilkin dies". WPXI. September 7, 2021.
  24. ^ [1][dead link]