It’s possible that Curley Culp’s skills as a collegiate wrestler that were good enough to win the 1967 NCAA heavyweight title prepared him for an impactful 14-season career in professional football. Culp, however, has discovered there’s less in his background to prepare him for enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
|Former Houston Oilers nose tackle Curley Culp, left, joins 2013 Hall of Fame classmates Warren Sapp and Bill Parcels before Super Bowl XLVII. Click here for a slideshow from Culp's career with the Oilers.|
Culp will join 2013 inductees Larry Allen, Cris Carter, Bill Parcells (contributor), Jonathan Ogden, Warren Sapp and Dave Robinson (who, along with Culp, was selected after nomination by the Senior Committee) in Canton, Ohio, for festivities that celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Hall of Fame. The keystone activity will be the enshrinement on Aug. 3.
“Well, it’s kind of hard (to know what to expect),” Culp said last week during a national conference call. “A lot of individuals told me what’s going on. I have an agenda of things to participate in so it’s going to be quite an event. It’s the 50-year anniversary. They say about 120 or so Hall of Famers are going to be there and they have the big parade and all the other festivities, so it’s going to be quite interesting.”
Culp’s selection was announced on the eve of Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans a short distance from where Culp helped the Kansas City Chiefs defeat the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV. He was able to fly from Austin, Texas, where he currently lives to attend the Super Bowl with his other classmates. He said he has enjoyed all of the congratulatory calls he’s received from former teammates and opponents.
Culp revolutionized the nose tackle position in a 3-4 defense and earned six selections to the Pro Bowl, but his career didn’t happen without overcoming some early adversity.
Following his college career at Arizona State, Culp was drafted by Denver in the second round (31st overall) of the 1968 NFL Draft. The Broncos, however, tried to move Culp to offensive line because they thought his 6-foot-2 frame wouldn’t be tall enough on the defensive line. Culp was able to return to defense when he was traded to Kansas City early that season and played all or part of seven seasons with the Chiefs before the Houston Oilers traded for him in October 1974.
Houston sent 1973 No. 1 overall pick John Matuszak and Henry Marshall to Kansas City for Culp and the sixth overall pick of the 1975 NFL Draft that was used to select Robert Brazile. Culp logged an All-Pro season in 1975 and four straight trips to the Pro Bowl (1975-78) as Bum Phillips shifted the Oilers to a 3-4 defense with Culp at nose tackle. Culp was with the Oilers until 1980 and finished that season in Detroit where he played the next and his last in 1981. He said he has good memories from throughout his career.
When asked if he considered himself a Chief or an Oiler and if he had decided which team he’d enter the Hall of Fame with, Culp said, “I’m an NFL ball player that had an opportunity to start in Denver and end up playing in Detroit with stops in Kansas City and Houston so if you ask me, if I have to pick between (Kansas City and Houston), it’s a difficult choice. It’s one that I haven’t made yet but if you factor in the fact that I was on the Super Bowl team in ’69-’70, so I’m probably leaning more in that direction, but I haven’t made that decision just yet.”
Culp said it’s a great honor to join his classmates and past players in the Hall of Fame and that he still pays attention to the game. More than a third of NFL teams used the 3-4 as their base defense in 2012, including champ Baltimore and runner-up San Francisco.
When asked how he’d stack up against current players, Culp said, “I think I’d be OK, although I had a technique that I tried to control the upper body a bit, and that type of maneuver probably wouldn’t be one that I’d choose today. I’d probably have to change those techniques, but I think I’d be alright overall.”
Although former teammates on the Chiefs and Oilers previously have been enshrined, Culp had never visited Canton until March when he attended meetings to prepare for the festivities.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s blog chronicled how it was memorable for Culp and a 6-year-old boy who was visiting the Hall of Fame with his family from Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. The boy, Evan York, had watched the selection show and cheered when Culp was announced. The York family decided to revisit the Hall of Fame in March because of Evan’s enthusiasm for football history, and it coincidentally overlapped with Culp’s pre-ceremony visit.
Culp said he’s enjoyed the experiences since his selection was announced and thinks the enjoyment will continue in the coming weeks.
“I’ve been advised to get plenty of rest, and I’m trying to do that and hone in on my speech and just try to stay positive as much as possible, keep my feet on the ground and enjoy the journey,” Culp said.