Sunday, August 03, 2014

Former Eagle Humphrey takes root in Canton

Claude Humphrey spent the majority of his career with the Atlanta Falcons, the club which selected him third overall in the 1968 draft out of Tennessee State, and for whom he starred through some mediocre seasons as one of the stalwarts of the "Grits Blitz."

Humphrey was the defender who made the most of clubbing his opponent in the head with his fist and arm; so good, in fact, the NFL banned the move late into his now Hall-of-Fame career.

He spent only three seasons (1979-81) of his 14-year career with the Philadelphia Eagles, but they coincided with the franchise's renaissance under then-head coach Dick Vermeil, defensive coordinator Marion Campbell, GM Jim Murray and owner Leonard Tose.

Roughly midway through his speech, which was extended for more than a half hour, Humphrey paid tribute to the man who helped lead him to his first and only playoff berths as a professional. 

"I met a man that had better work ethics than I did.  I marveled at the way he went about his job.  His name is Coach Dick Vermeil, Humphrey said, and then asked his former coach to stand to be recognized. "This man worked tirelessly to take a football team that perhaps may not have been a great football team, but he had a bunch of young guys who really got into what he was preaching, and we ended up going to a Super Bowl."

It was Humphrey whom Vermeil wrapped his arms around in a memorable clip from the final moments of the Eagles' January 1981 victory over the Dallas Cowboys to reach the Super Bowl for the first time. "Do you know where you're going?" the emotional ex-UCLA coach asked, before answering his own question: "You're going to the Super Bowl."

As a defensive end, Humphrey led a corps which finished, respectively, ninth (1979), first and first (1980-81) in fewest points allowed in the NFL. The Birds participated in six postseason contests in Humphrey's three years in Philadelphia, more in those three seasons than in the previous 20 years combined.

"When I got to Philadelphia, man, what a nice young team.  Those guys accepted me.  They brought me in.  They were like sponges.  They wanted to know what it was that I had been doing to get to All-Pro or make All-Pro.  But in the morning before practice we would have meeting together, Dick Harrison, Carl Hairston, Charlie Johnson, Ken Clark.  We would go in those meetings and that was before the coach got there.  Man, what great work we got in."

The 23rd member of the Hall of Fame to have suited up at one time for the Philadelphia Eagles, you can read the full transcript of Humphrey's epic speech by hitting the link.

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