Curley Culp

Curley Culp
Culp playing with the Chiefs in Super Bowl IV
No. 61, 78, 77
Position: Defensive tackle
Personal information
Born: (1946-03-10) March 10, 1946
Yuma, Arizona
Career information
High school: Yuma (AZ)
College: Arizona State
NFL Draft: 1968 / Round: 2 / Pick: 31
Career history
 * Offseason and/or practice squad member only
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Sacks: 68
Forced fumbles: 14
Fumble recoveries: 10
Player stats at
Player stats at PFR

Curley Culp (born March 10, 1946) is a former professional American football player. An offensive and defensive lineman, he played college football at Arizona State University, was the NCAA heavyweight wrestling champion while at ASU, and played professionally in the American Football League for the Kansas City Chiefs in 1968 and 1969, and for the National Football League Chiefs, Houston Oilers, and the Detroit Lions. He was an AFL All-Star in 1969 and a six-time AFCNFC Pro Bowler.

On Saturday, August 3, 2013, Culp was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.[1]

Collegiate career

Culp played at Arizona State University under legendary coach Frank Kush. He played both offensive and defensive tackle. He was drafted in the second round of the 1968 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos.

Professional career

Kansas City Chiefs

At 6'1" and 265 lbs, Culp was considered a bit too short for the defensive line and a bit too slow to play linebacker. He moved from Denver to Kansas City in search of a team that could properly utilize his unique talents. Culp's play as a nose tackle actually took root in Super Bowl IV. Chiefs coach, Hank Stram, in an attempt to nullify the Minnesota Vikings' quick outside rushing attack, decided to line Culp directly nose-to-nose with Vikings center, Mick Tingelhoff. The smaller Tingelhoff could not block Culp one-on-one and had to be helped by the other linemen. This freed teammates, Buck Buchanan, Willie Lanier, and other Chiefs defenders to get into the Vikings offensive backfield and shut down their running game. The effectiveness of the Chiefs' defensive game plan helped continue the growing popularity of the 3-4 scheme in the 1970s from the college to pro ranks.

"Curley Culp was a tremendous athlete," Pro Football Hall of Fame QB, Len Dawson, said. "He had such strength and quickness. I remember Jack Rudnay used to say that every center in the league should have to go against Curley in order to know what it's like to go against the very best."

Culp helped anchor the Kansas City defensive line. Culp spent seven seasons in Kansas City (1968–1974). He was a starting defensive tackle on the Chiefs Super Bowl IV squad and appeared in 82 games with Kansas City. A member of the Chiefs 25-Year All-Time Team, Culp played in the 1969 AFL All-Star Game and the 1971 Pro Bowl. He was twice honored as the Associated Press Defensive Player of the Week and claimed the Chiefs unofficial sack crown in 1973 with nine QB takedowns. Culp also registered five fumble recoveries in his Kansas City career.

Houston Oilers and Detroit Lions

When Culp arrived in Houston, Bum Phillips was the defensive coordinator for Sid Gillman at the time. He had convinced the head coach to try a 3-4 defense, employing three down linemen and four linebackers, eschewing the standard 4-3 fronts of the day. The Oilers acquired Culp midway through the 1974 season for troubled DT John Matuszak. Culp had signed to play in the rival World Football League for 1975, so the Chiefs thought they were unloading a problem of their own. Culp outlived the new league and then some. It turned out to be one of the best trades in Oiler history.

Culp was so strong he required two and three players to block him, opening lanes for Elvin Bethea, Gregg Bingham and Ted Washington, Sr. (and soon Robert Brazile, the player Houston drafted with the first-round pick that came with Culp). Houston won seven of their remaining nine games after Curley came to Houston. As Phillips later said, "Curley made (the 3-4 defense) work. He made me look smart."

Culp's finest season came in 1975. He notched 11½ sacks, a high total for a nose tackle. He won All-Pro honors and was chosen NFL Defensive Player of the Year by the Newspaper Enterprise Association and as such received the George S. Halas Trophy.

The nose tackle position would become notorious for shortening careers. As linemen attacked Curley from every angle, injuries and age began to take their toll. Midway through the 1980 season, Culp was released and was claimed by Detroit, where he stayed an additional season, before closing out his 14-year NFL career.

So great was his impact that the Sporting News named Culp to the All-Century teams of both the Kansas City and Houston/Tennessee franchises. Or more to the point, as voiced by Hall-Of-Famer center, Jim Otto of the Raiders, "Curley Culp was perhaps the strongest man I ever lined up against."

Houston Highlight: In a September 1975 game against the San Diego Chargers, Culp scooped up a Charger fumble and rumbled 38 yards. Even though teammate Elvin Bethea yelled that Curley was going the wrong way, he managed to find the correct end zone for the only points of his NFL career. The score helped Houston beat San Diego, 33-17, and secured the Oilers' first 2-0 start since 1966. Houston finished the 1975 season with a 10-4 record.

Collegiate Wrestling

Curley Culp was the heavyweight champion, and won the Gorriaran Award for scoring the most falls at the 1967 NCAA Division I championships.[2]


In March 2008 Kansas City Chiefs Chairman, Clark Hunt, decided that former DT Curley Culp would be the 2008 inductee into the Chiefs Hall of Fame. The 38th member of this prestigious group, Culp was enshrined into the Chiefs Hall of Fame at halftime of the Chiefs Alumni Game that fall. Culp played a total of 13 seasons in the AFL/NFL with Kansas City, Houston, and Detroit, and was selected to a total of six AFL All-Star Games or Pro Bowls.

On August 22, 2012, Culp was named as a senior nominee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2013.[3] On February 2, 2013, Culp was selected as one of seven inductees into the 2013 Hall of Fame class.[4] On August 3, 2013, Culp was officially inducted at the Enshrinement Ceremony where his bust, sculpted by Scott Myers, was unveiled.

See also


  1. Corbett, Jim (February 2, 2013). "Parcells, Carter finally make Pro Football Hall of Fame". USA Today. Retrieved 2 February 2013.
  2. "37th NCAA Wrestling Tournament" (PDF). National Collegiate Athletic Association. Retrieved 14 August 2012.
  3. "Culp and Robinson named 2013 senior nominees". Pro Football Hall of Fame. August 22, 2011. Retrieved 2012-08-22.
  4. Gregg Rosenthal (February 2, 2013). "Warren Sapp among seven voted into Hall of Fame". Around the League. Retrieved February 2, 2013.
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