HOF Profile: Claude Humphrey

Atlanta FalconsThe Pro Football Hall of Fame will add another set of great players to the busts in Canton this year with the Class of 2014. As always there will be plenty of stories behind these hall of famers with many sitting as unknowns to a new generation of fans. There are the superstars that will make it in with little wait time and those who have been waiting for a long time to get into the hall. There are the ultra-successful players and the players who saw little success except personal. In fact that is one of the biggest debates when deciding on players who make the hall of fame. Many would argue that a Super Bowl ring is an essential part to the equation of a hall of famer. They would argue that there should be only special exceptions to letting any player in that never won the big game. That would eliminate a lot of players though as some of the greatest players were never successful in terms of titles. Many of these players were drafted as great picks for terrible teams and as good as they were they were not able to turn their teams around. It can be a challenge for a lot of great players as their great play gets lost in the bad team. They can have amazing year after amazing year but nobody sees them because everyone is paying attention to the teams that are winning. That can make great players seem a lot less great as they are buried in the regular season with no time to truly showcase their talents in the playoffs. That was the case for Claude Humphrey as he was stuck on a team that had only three winning seasons during his time there. Humphrey was the best player on the team and was a large part to the reason they even had those three winning seasons. Still it would hurt his claim to a bust in Canton as he would be elected by the Senior Ballot after ending his campaign in the top 15 in 2003, 2004, and 2005. It would take the senior ballot to finally realize the impact that Humphrey had on the game and despite his poor team performance he belongs in the hall of fame alongside the greatest players in NFL history.

Humphrey was a new breed of defensive end when he began playing as he would help to lead a new style of defensive line. When Humphrey entered the league in 1968 it was a run first system for the offences. That would mean that the defences began using bigger bodies on the line to stuff the holes and make sure there were no lanes to run through. By no means was Humphrey a small man at 6’4” 252 lbs but he was not the hulking defensive lineman that was the norm at the time. Instead he was a quicker breed of defensive lineman that would get into the backfield faster than most lineman at the time. Although sacks were not kept as an official stat at the time Humphrey would get into the backfield 122 times to bring down the quarterback. His speed was different from what had been seen before and it would pave the way for a new wave of defensive ends in the league. As the league continued to move more towards passing this style of end would become more normal and is now almost essential for teams to compete. Humphrey is one of the handful of players that can be thanked for that as he would lead the change in the league. Again despite his great performance he was buried in a bad team that would not be able to showcase the skill that made him an impact player. He would rarely play in the playoffs and only had three winning seasons as a part of the Atlanta Falcons. He may not have been able to get the championships that every player hopes to get but he still made an impact. It may have been forgotten over time with his last season being in 1981 but when he enters the Hall of Fame that influence that he has had on the league will be in full display as Humphrey finally gets a bust in Canton.


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