The Eagles offered Hall of Fame defensive end Claude Humphrey something that he never had during his illustrious 11-year career with the Atlanta Falcons - a chance to be a part of a winning team. An integral part of the Eagles' first NFC Championship team in the 1980 season, Humphrey was elected on Saturday to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2014.
"I am so happy for Claude. He meant so much to us as a player and as a leader in our locker room," said former head coach Dick Vermeil. "Claude came to us after he basically retired in Atlanta; he had had it with losing. We sent Atlanta two fourth-round draft picks and it was a great investment for us."
Humphrey did not get to play in a single playoff game in his tenure with Atlanta. The Falcons failed to make the playoffs in Humphrey's first 10 seasons, six of which Humphrey was a Pro Bowl selection. Atlanta made the playoffs in 1978, Humphrey's final season, but the defensive end retired four games in because he was tired of losing. The Falcons started that season 1-3 before rallying to make the playoffs.
Vermeil thought that Humphrey still had some gas left in the tank. That's why the Eagles traded away the pair of draft picks for the rights to Humphrey. Humphrey helped transform the Eagles into a Super Bowl contender. In his second year with the Eagles, Humphrey led the Eagles with an unofficial 14.5 sacks as a situational pass rusher as Philadelphia captured its first NFC Championship.
"Claude was a tremendous inspiration for a young coach," Vermeil said. "Knowing he was a veteran, I would ask him if he wanted a day off from time to time in Training Camp. But he always refused. He never took off a practice or a wind sprint. He had a fantastic work ethic. In fact, Claude made up T-shirts that the guys loved - 'I Survived Dick Vermeil's Training Camp,' or whatever it said, and it was just perfect."
Linebacker Bill Bergey explained how Humphrey epitomized the type of player that the Eagles were looking for.
"He was a cornerstone of what we were doing with the Philadelphia Eagles. When he spoke, and it wasn't often, everybody listened. He was a classy, hard-working player who came to us to win, and that's what we did," Bergey said. "He did his job and he did it well. We got him at the tail end of his career, but he still was one of those guys who always did his job the right way. He never complained. He never took a play off. He just played football and he was into being a Philadelphia Eagle right away."
The sack did not become an unofficial stat until 1982, one year after Humphrey retired for good. Humphrey accumulated 122 sacks in 144 career games. With Saturday's announcement, Humphrey has finally been recognized as one of the truly dominant defensive players of all time.
"Deacon Jones named the sack and Claude Humphrey outlawed it," Vermeil said. "He was that kind of player."