Hey Falcoholics, I’m back with another edition of The Falcoholic’s Throwback Thursday series. This weekly segment highlights a former Atlanta Falcons player and discusses their life and what they did for the franchise.
Whether you’ve been a fan since the inaugural season, or just became a fan recently, this series will give insight on players from the past. This week we will be focusing on defensive end Claude Humphrey.
Claude B. Humphrey was born on June 29, 1944 in Memphis, Tennessee. Humphrey attended Lester High School where he excelled at both football and basketball. He had the opportunity to attend such schools as Nebraska and Illinois, but felt more comfortable at a predominately black university, and attended Tennessee State University.
At Tennessee State, Claude Humphrey was on the 1965 and 1966 teams that went undefeated. He was named an All-American and also attended the Senior Bowl.
With the 3rd overall pick in the 1968 AFL/NFL Draft, the Atlanta Falcons selected Claude Humphrey. He joined the Falcons during their 3rd season in franchise history, and the team went 2-12. Regardless, Humphrey had a solid season which earned him the honor of being the league’s Rookie of the Year.
His career with the Falcons was an impressive one, as he was named a First-team All-Pro five times, and a Second-team All-Pro three times. From 1970-1974, and in 1977 he was named to the NFL Pro Bowl. In 1976, he was named to the Second-Team All-NFC for having an unofficial 15 sacks. Humphrey anchored the Falcons legendary “Gritz Blitz” which set a 14-game record in 1977 for allowing only 129 total points. He made the Pro Bowl six times in his career,
After spending 10 seasons in Atlanta, the Falcons traded Claude Humphrey to the Philadelphia Eagles for two 4th round picks. In 1980, the Philadelphia Eagles earned a spot in Super Bowl XV, with the help of Humphrey’s 14 ½ sacks. In 1981, Claude Humphrey retired from the NFL, with an unofficial 126 ½ career sacks. A year later, the NFL officially started recording sacks in 1982.
In his post football life, Claude Humphrey was inducted into the Georgia Hall of Fame and the Tennessee Hall of Fame. His jersey number has also been retired at both Lester High School and Tennessee State University. In 2008, Humphrey joined fellow Falcons’ great Mike Kenn in entering the Atlanta Falcons Ring of Honor.
After being a finalist in 2003, 2005, 2006 and a senior finalist in 2009, Claude Humphrey was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014.
“I was aggressive, very aggressive. I tried to play the game to the point where when I walked off the field, there was nothing that I didn’t cover. I tried to play all out. I didn’t take any prisoners. I just tried to do my job.” — Claude Humphrey
Aside from the three seasons he spent with the Philadelphia Eagles, Humphrey was a Falcon for a decade. He is one of the best defensive ends in Atlanta Falcons history, and one of the better defensive linemen to ever play the game. Fans that are old enough to have watched him, know his impact on the franchise. He’s one of the few Falcons representing in Canton, hopefully he’s joined in the future by other Falcons’ legends.
Let me know in the comments below some of your favorite Claude Humphrey memories. As always, you can find me on Twitter @EvanBirchfield. Additionally, make sure to follow @The_Falcoholic on Instagram for up-to-date news and information. Thanks for reading, Falcoholics.