Eagles Insider

Hall of Famer Claude Humphrey, a star on the Dick Vermeil Eagles, has died

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Pro Football Hall of Famer Claude Humphrey, who had an unofficial 15½ sacks for the Eagles during the 1980 Super Bowl season, died Friday, the Hall of Fame announced. He was 77.

Humphrey, enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014, spent his first 11 seasons with the Falcons before playing for Dick Vermeil's Eagles from 1979 through 1980.

Although sacks were not an official stat until 1982, Humphrey recorded 130 unofficial sacks in his 14-year career according to research done recently by Pro Football Reference. According to that research, Humphrey unofficially ranked 6th in NFL history in sacks when he retired after the 1981 season, and he's still 24th overall.

His 15½ sacks in 1980 -- a career high -- rank 7th in Eagles history going back to 1960. Only Reggie White (three times), Clyde Simmons, Greg Brown and Jason Babin have had more in an Eagles uniform officially or unofficially.

"The thing about my career is I didn't just concentrate on sacking the quarterback," Humphrey said Hall of Fame week in 2014. "I concentrated on being the total football player."

Humphrey was the third pick overall in 1968 out of Tennessee State and made six Pro Bowls and first-team all-pro five times during his 11 seasons with the Falcons. 

But the Falcons never made the playoffs while Humphrey was in Atlanta, and four games into the 1978 season he announced his retirement and settled in at his 88-acre farm in Tennessee.

"I just got tired of playing for Atlanta," he said years later. "Let's leave it at that. It's very touchy. I don't want to talk about it." 

 

In March of 1979, the Falcons traded Humphrey to the Eagles in exchange for two draft picks. Humphrey wanted to come to the Eagles because Vermeil's defensive coordinator -- Marion Campbell -- had been the Falcons' defensive line coach and head coach while Humphrey was in Atlanta. Also, Vermeil's secondary coach, Fred Bruney, had been on Campbell's defensive staff in Atlanta.

"I learned all my football from Marion Campbell because he was there the whole time I was there," Humphrey said on March 5, 1979, after joining the Eagles. "I asked to come here. I asked to be traded to the Eagles. 

"This is one of the proudest moments of my life. Not only am I coming to a fine organization, but it also gives me the opportunity to reacquaint myself with some fine coaches that I worked with before.

"I'd say 90 percent of the reason I came back was to play for him. Everybody's got to have somebody to look up to and respect, somebody to talk to them. Marion is my somebody in football."

That same day, Vermeil said this of Humphrey: "I consider him the best pass rusher in pro football."

Even in his mid-30s, he still was.

Humphrey had 11 sacks for the Eagles in 1979, second on the team to Carl Hairston's 15, and reached the playoffs for the first time at 35 years old. A year later, he recorded his career-high of 15½ sacks for the Super Bowl team despite starting only one game. He was one of the first situational 3rd-down pass rushers.

Humphrey was 36 the Super Bowl season, and his 15½ sacks are the 2nd-most in NFL history -- official or unofficial -- by a player 36 or older. Reggie White had 16 at 37 years old in 1998 for the Packers.

"It's benefited me a great deal," Humphrey said of playing only on passing downs. "I realize I couldn't have played a whole season, every snap and done nearly as well from a production standpoint. From a pride standpoint, I would have liked to have played every down."

He played one more year in 1981 and reached the postseason for the third straight year before retiring for good.

After he retired, Humphrey appeared in the "Repo Man" episode of Dukes of Hazzard.

Humphrey was a finalist for the Hall of Fame in 2003, 2005 and 2006 before finally being voted in by the seniors committee in 2013 for the Class of 2014.

"I always figured there was a place for me here," Humphrey told the Philadelphia Daily News when he was finally voted into the Hall. 

"It took a long time and there was a lot of disappointment, getting nominated so many times and getting to the finals and missing. But getting in is such a great experience. I'll tell you what, it's hard to explain."