Pro Football Hall-of-Famer and former Atlanta Falcon great Claude B. Humphrey was honored by Atlanta City Council recently before his family and former teammates. It has been a long time coming.
Humphrey has mastered the art of being patient over the years. On Aug. 2, more than 30 years after retiring from football, and following four denied entries as a hall of Fame finalist or senior candidate, the former Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles defensive end was officially inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Elected in his 28th year of eligibility, Humphrey was a devastating pass rusher when he played for the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles. He led his team in sacks nine times during a 13-year career, and that was before sacks became an official NFL statistic. In over 171 career games, Humphrey was credited with 122 career sacks, including 94.5 with the Falcons, a franchise record. After Humphrey’s HOF election, former Eagles head coach Dick Vermeil quoted, “Deacon Jones named the sack and Claude Humphrey outlawed it. He was that kind of player.”
The Atlanta Falcons selected Humphrey out of Tennessee State with the third overall pick in the 1968 AFL/NFL Draft. The 6-4, 252-pound Humphrey was an impact player who immediately justified his first-round status, earning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.
Despite playing 10 seasons for a Falcons team that struggled to win, Humphrey was an eight-time All-NFL or All-Pro selection. His play also was instrumental in leading the Eagles to their first Super Bowl. In Jan. 1981, Gainesville resident Chuck Clausen was coaching in the Super Bowl. The Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator remembers signing Claude Humphrey in 1979 when the Falcons traded him to the Eagles for two fourth-round draft picks. In Philadelphia, Humphrey continued to dominate the field, and in 1980 recorded a team-high 14.5 sacks.
“I was the coach,” said Clausen, “but Claude taught me.” Known for his ability to stop a quarterback, Humphrey’s crushing plays helped lead the Eagles to a Super Bowl appearance as the NFC champions. “It’s an honor for Betsy and I to join this most deserved celebration.”
Several Falcon retirees attending the ceremony, including former Atlanta Falcon offensive lineman Dave Scott, who played 101 games during his 7-year career with the Atlanta Falcons (1976-1982). Scott, married to wife Clarice since 1976 and currently a resident of Atlanta with their three children, recounted some of his encounters with Humphrey.
“I was hit by Claude in 1976, my rookie season. I don’t know what he hit me with … all I remember is going down. You have to remember that they had chop blocking at the time (a common strategy in football effective in getting a defensive player on the ground, opening a hole for the offensive to run a successful play, chop blocking was deemed illegal),” Scott recalls. “He was a fierce contender and I learned a lot from him.”
Visit www.atlantafalcons.com and www.profootballhof.com/hof/member for highlights of Falcon Team owner Arthur Blank’s recognition of Claude Humphrey, and his inspiring Pro Football Hall of Fame speech.