Memories: Pro Football Hall Of Fame Class of 2013, Curley Culp


Perhaps many people’s first reaction to the name Curley is to ask where Moe and Larry are.

Curley Culp Arizona State
Curley Culp at Arizona State

But playing against defensive tackle Curley Culp was hardly a humorous situation if you were an opposing lineman.

Now the 14-year veteran and six-time Pro Bowler gets to rub elbows with some of the other great defensive tackles of his and every era.

Culp experienced some success early in his career despite a change of venue before his career even began. The former Arizona State product was a second-round pick by the Denver Broncos in 1968. But Culp was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs before the start of the season and would become a fixture on the defensive line.

In just his second season in the pros, Culp found himself playing for a championship as the Kansas City Chiefs found themselves in their second Super Bowl. While head coach Hank Stram was famously calling plays such as “65 Toss Power Trap,” the Kansas City defense was busy tossing around the Minnesota Vikings’ offense at Tulane Stadium.

Curley culp
Curley Culp with Kansas City Chiefs

In the Chiefs 23-7 win in Super Bowl IV, Culp totaled four tackles, including three solo stops that netted three, zero and zero yards rushing by Vikings’ running backs. Culp would also be an All-Star/Pro Bowler that season, something he achieved two of his first four seasons with the franchise.

curley culp
Curley Culp to take his place in NFL HOF

But all good things must come to an end (or a defensive tackle). Culp would begin his seventh NFL season with the Chiefs but would end the 1974 campaign with the Houston Oilers thanks to a trade that would send the standout defender to the Lone Star State. It was here that Culp would really find his stride playing nose tackle in the 3-4, which a lot of teams in the league weren’t utilizing at that time.

Culp was named to four straight Pro Bowls during his first full four seasons with the Oilers (1975-78) and played alongside right defensive end Elvin Bethea, who was enshrined in Canton in 2003, to form one of the league’s top defensive fronts. They were the core of some excellent Oilers’ teams that took the field that decade. In 1978–led by head coach Bum Phillips, rookie running back Earl Campbell and quarterback Dan Pastorini–the franchise would make the first of back-to-back appearances in the AFC Championship Game. But they would fall short both times to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

In 1980, Culp was on the move again. He would wind up with the Detroit Lions, a team in which he played just five games in two seasons.

Now nearly 32 years since he played his final game in the National Football League, the 67-year old Culp takes his place amongst the greats in Canton.


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