By Mary Kate Lau, Digital Communications Intern
During Curley Culp’s time on the Kansas City Chiefs, sacks were not an officially kept stat. Unofficial counts though, say he took the sacks title on a dominant 1973 Chiefs defense with nine and also had 8.5 in 1969 and 7.5 in 1972.
In other words, Culp was known to take some guys down.
It’ll be a different story on Saturday, when the Sun Devil Ring of Honor member takes the field with Warren Sapp, Bill Parcells and four others, not to take some snaps and wreak some havoc, but to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
“I'm going to be very excited,” Culp said. “It's a wonderful opportunity to meet past inductees and I'm honored to be a part of that group.”
The whirlwind trip to Canton will be Culp’s first time at the festivities and he’s not quite sure what to expect.
"It’s kind of hard, a lot of individuals told me what's going on, and I have an agenda of things to participate in," Culp said in a media conference call. "It's going to be quite an event. It's the 50-year anniversary, they say 120 former hall of fame members are going to be there and the big parade and all the festivities that go along with that weekend event, it's going to be quite interesting."
While it’s been 50 years since the first Pro Football Hall of Fame class, it’s been 49 since he showed up at ASU with arguably a bigger reputation as a wrestler than one as a football player.
The Yuma, Ariz., native was coming off back-to-back heavyweight championships when he agreed to come to ASU after a conversation with head football coach Frank Kush where he assured Culp he would get to play both sports.
The two-sport athlete went on to be an All-American in football and win the first NCAA heavyweight title in ASU history in 1967, along with the coveted Gorriaran Award (presented to the wrestler who pinned the most opponents in the least amount of time), not to mention Homecoming King and “Male Student with the Best Smile.”
It was here that he made friendships with teammates still intact today, like fellow ASU Ring of Honor member Ron Pritchard, who has a strong admiration, but still a competitive spirit, with his fellow Sun Devil.
“There's always mixed emotions,” Pritchard said. ”I think great players all have a bit of a jealousy and envy of that great award. At the same time, you're very happy, especially if the guy has the character of Curley Culp. This is a guy that ever since he was a teenager has carried himself with dignity and honor, very bright guy. Not rude, not pushy, very self-controlled. So that emotion is a real emotion for guys who have taken this football thing very seriously. Everyone who plays the game, it's really important, maybe out-of-balance important. You can't all make it, but one of your own made it, and on top of that he's just a wonderful person.”
Culp loved both sports while in Tempe and struggled with choosing which to pursue after college, until the Denver Broncos helped make that decision for him.
“Well, I got drafted,” Culp said with a laugh when asked what made him ultimately choose football.
Culp left ASU a semester away from graduating to head to Denver, where he was soon traded to the Chiefs and a defensive line that dominated the AFL. From 1968-74, they never finished with lower than the third best record in pro football and won Super Bowl IV against the Minnesota Vikings, holding them to just one touchdown. Culp, who was the 1975 Defensive Player of the Year and a six-time Pro-Bowler, will be the fifth member of that Super Bowl squad to be immortalized in the Pro Hall of Fame.
In 1970, even with a coveted Super Bowl ring, Culp came back to ASU to finish up that final semester.
“That was my goal after high school to graduate from Arizona State University,” Culp said.
He got his Bachelor of Science degree at ASU, then went on to grad school after football and earned a Master of Education Degree in Health and Human Performance from the University of Houston in 1989 and also attended leadership programs at the University of Texas at Austin.
“Education is something that is very important to me,” Culp says while discussing his advice to today’s young student athletes. “Study hard, make sure you're keeping your grades up and pursue your career because not everybody is going to get a chance to play professional sports.”
These days, Culp is living in Austin where he likes to volunteer his time to organizations like the American Lung Association and Children with Special Needs.
He also finds time to attend various ASU alumni events where he says he spent some time bending current head football coach Todd Graham’s ear about this year’s team, which by the way, he has high hopes for.