Posted: 7:23 pm Saturday, February 1st, 2014

Claude Humphrey finally gets due from Hall of Fame 

By Jeff Schultz

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Claude Humphrey’s Hall of Fame honor was long overdue. (Steve Hummer/AJC)

NEW YORK — Fifty years after the Pro Football Hall of Fame opened its doors, a real Falcons player is finally going to be enshrined, having overcome the greatest obstacle of all: playing for the Falcons.

Claude Humphrey, the long-time defensive end who spent 10-plus years of his 13-plus NFL seasons in Atlanta terrorizing quarterbacks, finally was given a hall pass to the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, Saturday. Humphrey was one of seven players announced as this year’s class and one of two that had been nominated by the Senior’s Committee (the other: punter Ray Guy from Thomson, Ga.).

Humphrey’s career (1968-81) predated when sacks counted as an official statistic. But a post-career review showed he had 122 sacks, including 94½ with the Falcons.

Fact is, he should’ve been in long ago.

“It’s been a long time,” Humphrey said. “I appreciated every day that I went out to play football in the National Football League.”

What has kept him out so long?

Here are three possible factors:

• 1.) He played most of his career with the Falcons, during which the team had a winning record only three times and made the playoff once (and even that came in Humphrey’s final Atlanta season in 1978, when the end walked out after four games because he was worn down by losing). The Hall is an individual honor but we’ve seen cases in all sports of great players on bad teams getting passed over, while average players on great teams often are overrated. It’s sad but true.

• 2.) Some of the Hall’s voting contingent (46 voters this year) might’ve held it against Humphrey that he quit the team during a season in hopes of forcing a trade in 1978. The Falcons didn’t comply and Humphrey sat out the rest of the year before being traded after the season to Philadelphia. He played on the Eagles’ 1980 Super Bowl team, leading the defense with 14½ sacks.

• 3.) Another former Falcons’ great, Tommy Nobis, has been snubbed by the Hall in the past and there’s a feeling in some corners — not this one — that he was more deserving of being enshrined than Humphrey. In other words, it’s the old, “I won’t vote for your guy until you vote for mine” scenario.

Stupid, I know, but these are the things that happen in voting chambers.

All I know is this: Anybody that doesn’t recognize Humphrey’s greatness isn’t qualified to vote. He was the centerpiece the Grits Blitz’ defense and as consistent a player as there ever was. Technically, he is the fifth ex-Falcon to make it into Canton, but some might consider him the first true Falcon.

Consider the other four: Cornerback Deion Sanders was obviously talented but he was somewhat polarizing and left after five seasons, going on to play for San Francisco, Dallas and Baltimore. Defensive end Chris Doleman played for two years after he spent nine in Minnesota. Running back Eric Dickerson was already broken down by the time he arrived in Atlanta and played only four games in the last of his 11 seasons. Wide receiver Tommy McDonald spent only one of his 12 seasons with the Falcons.

If you didn’t get a chance to read Steve Hummer’s terrific story on Humphrey last week, here’s a link. He addressed his ugly exit from the team, saying: “One day I was sitting in the locker room and said, you know, this thing isn’t getting any better. I put my stuff in the locker and left, it was just that simple. … I wasn’t mad at anybody because there was nothing I could do as a player but do what I did.”

We can certainly debate whether he made the right call to walk out. But his credentials, including five All-Pro designations and six Pro Bowls, are undeniable.

Previous blogs, columns from Super Bowl
– MyAJC: Elway sent message when nobody on Falcons did
– MyAJC: NFL is about money more than weather
– MyAJC: Seattle’s Coleman inspires by overcoming deafness
– Blog: Dimitroff: Clowney will be difference-maker
– MyAJC: Peyton Manning’s legacy secure, win or lose
– Blog: Manning may be No. 1 QB in history now
– Blog: Expect Atlanta to get Super Bowl despite storm
– MyAJC: John Fox goes from heart surgery to Super Bowl (like Reeves)
– Blog: Digi-Blog goes to the Super Bowl!
– MyAJC: Richard Sherman succeeds in changing narrative
– Blog: Seattle made more right decisions than Falcons
– MyAJC: Goodell has put Super Bowl at unnecessary risk
– MyAJC: Falcons’ makeover should start with Clowney
– Blog: Poll: Should Falcons make a run at Clowney?
21 comments
JSSN
JSSN

 Arguing about Nobis takes away from Humphrey's moment! 


Sadly as I said last night, Nobis may have to pass away to be appreciated enough to get people to look back and see how great was. He had the misfortune of playing at the end of Huff/Bednarik era and then dawn of the Butkus era (with Willie Lanier, Lee Roy Jordan, Mike Curtis, and Ray Nitschke who won titles) during the period. 


Funny, I read thru these threads and see Van Note. I love Van Note, he made himself into an anchor. He's not going in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Still, the next Falcons who will sniff Canton should be Andersen, Kenn, and remotely Fralic! 

FarTrain
FarTrain

Shame on you JS for "short-shrifting" Ray Guy.  You barely even gave him lip service in this article.(Are you one of those who thinks kickers do not belong in the HOF?)and HE IS FROM GEORGIA!   Thomson, near Augusta, is not that far from Atlanta.  Do they have to be from Atlanta for you to give them their accolades. Ray Guy was picked in the first round by the Oakland Raiders and NEVER had a punt returned for a TD.  That's how good he was.  Al Davis said he was responsible for many of their wins.  It's not like JS to ignore someone like this, and I normally compliment him on his articles, but not this time.  RG got 8 words in this column, as more of an afterthought.  Thomson GA is proud of him and all of GA should be also. 

JSSN
JSSN

Said it last night when it was announced, Humphrey deserved this in ways that are incalculable! It needs to stand alone aside away from the ranker of Nobis's slight. I started feeling more optimist when Buck Buchanan was finally recognized and enshrined that Claude Humphrey's day was coming. Now truly the "greatest" defensive lineman product in Tennessee State University's history finally is in Canton! Even Richard Dent has to agree!

HarveyPooka
HarveyPooka

Running neck-and-neck, almost, with Tommy Nobis and Jeff Van Note as co-Mr. Falcons.

Barves_Loss_Agian
Barves_Loss_Agian

Dear Kory Beerman U need 2 look at flim of Humphers to learn how 2 palyu DE in the Nfl

WhopperDawg
WhopperDawg

He is the first true Falcon to get in and I am pleased as punch about it!!! It is well served. The anti-head slap rule was created due to CH's head slap technique, it was brutal. Loved the guy.


The reason he hasn't gotten in before is simply because he played for Atlanta, none other.


Nobis, IMO, was better and he isn't in for the exact same reason. If either had played for Chicago, GB or a NY team they would be mentioned with the elites of NFL history.


While I am on this rant, if William Andrews hadn't gotten hurt, he was on his way to a HOF career.


Three of the best to ever step on the field.

HotDawg
HotDawg

He sadly left as the falcons were gathering their first success in '78, and a strongly favored super bowl team in '80. Nobody in Atlanta has ever gotten over that playoff loss to Dallas in '80.

That was the beginning of total misery.

HotDawg
HotDawg

Nobis and van note should be in as first true falcons. Bartkowski and Andrews owe much of r their success to van note.

Whiznot
Whiznot

This is great news for long time Falcons fans. Claude, there is no one more deserving.

RonV902
RonV902

I remember growing up watching Claude Humphrey on one end a John Zook on the other. Love to watch Mr. Humphreys play

patriotdog
patriotdog

About time! Congrats to Big Claude. He, Nobis and Van Note all would've been elected years ago

had they played in New York, LA, Pittsburgh, etc...travesty it took so long for Claude, and that Nobis and Noter are not joining with him. If you grew up in Atlanta during the late 60s and 70s, you saw a guy, Nobis, make plays all over the field when he had practically no help at all.

DNorth
DNorth

That is good news ... Humphrey was my favorite player during a time when there weren't very many players on the Falcons to get excited about.  I wish his wife had gotten to see it.


Honestly, its difficult to condemn the man for leaving.  He wanted a chance to win in a game where the half life for most players is measured in months ... he soldiered here enough years that he gets a pass from me.


Congratulations, Claude.  You deserved it.

HotDawg
HotDawg

To be appreciated in Georgia more, Ray Guy should have gone to UGA.....gotta play for the home teams if you want the cheers from the home fans. Don't worry, he has Thomson. He felt that was good enough.

JSSN
JSSN

@Joe-T  

Joe Tess Fishhouse....

Kroy Bierman needs to watch film of the guy playing opposite of Humphrey, John Zook, and then he'll "learn how to play DE in the NFL! He's complimentary player who needs to play off a real life playmaker like the great Claude Humphrey  was!

DawgNole
DawgNole

@WhopperDawg  

Co-sign--except on the head-slap rule. Wasn't that created because of Deacon Jones?

DawgNole
DawgNole

@HotDawg  

Yes it was. And that loss to Dallas was preceded by a "meaningless" loss to the L.A. Rams in the regular-season finale--much as the 2012 Falcons lost a "meaningless" final regular-season game to TB. That TB loss marked the beginning of yet another run of total misery.

seminoleking
seminoleking

@HotDawg  you wasnt watching falcon games because if you did, you wouldnt have said that......lol

DawgNole
DawgNole

@Whiznot  

But certainly Nobis is AS deserving. Hopefully he'll make it in the not-too-distant future. Congrats to Claude, in any event.