Claude Humphrey, Pillar of N.F.L. Falcons’ ‘Grits Blitz,’ Dies at 77

Claude Humphrey, Pillar of N.F.L. Falcons’ ‘Grits Blitz,’ Dies at 77

- in Football

He twice recovered fumbles for safeties and had a pair of interceptions.

“In Atlanta, I never got used to losing,” Humphrey told The Associated Press in 2014. “It made me play harder. I used to say to myself: ‘Well, if we lose the game, the guy who lined up in front of me won’t have anything to be excited about. When he looks at the film, he’s not going to like what he sees of himself. I’m going to go out there and try to wear him down.’ That was the only thing that kept me motivated.”

Claude Humphrey was born on June 29, 1944, in Memphis, a son of Dosie Humphrey, a school maintenance engineer, and Millie Hayes Humphrey, who worked as a domestic. He played football, basketball, ran the low hurdles and excelled in the shot put in high school.

He was an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) All-American lineman while playing for outstanding Tennessee State University teams and was voted to the Black College Football Hall of Fame in 2012.

Humphrey was selected by the Falcons as the third overall choice in the 1968 pro football draft. He was named the N.F.L.’s defensive rookie of the year, recording 11½ sacks.

After his playing career, Humphrey owned a livestock ranch in Oakland, Tenn., and was a defensive line coach with the Falcons.

In addition to his daughter Claudia, he is survived by his daughters Chandra Cheyenne Humphrey-Robinson and Candice Cherokee Humphrey and a grandson. His wife, Sandra Harrell Humphrey, died in 2013.

“I was aggressive, very aggressive,” the Hall of Fame quoted Humphrey as once saying. “I tried to play the game to the point where when I walked off the field, there was nothing that I didn’t cover. I tried to play all out. I didn’t take any prisoners.”

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