College Days: Curley Culp

Each week throughout the 2013 season, Profootballhof.com recaps the college days of a pro football legend.


Curley Culp
Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2013

Hall of Fame defensive tackle Curley Culp was one of the strongest and most athletic defensive lineman in NFL history. Little do people know that he honed that legendary strength by tossing 50-pound barrels day after day on his father’s farm while growing up in Yuma, Arizona. Culp’s long-developed power translated well in two of the sports that he loved – football and wrestling.

Culp was a two-way player on the gridiron where he played as a fullback and lineman at Yuma High School. On the mat he won back-to-back state heavyweight titles in 1963 and ‘64.

Although he was heavily recruited by a number of colleges, Culp chose nearby Arizona State because head football coach Frank Kush agreed to let Culp wrestle. The school benefitted on both fronts.

Culp, who had a tremendously low center of gravity, was one of the most dominant wrestlers in the nation during his collegiate career. He was a three-time Western Athletic Conference champion, the 1967 NCAA heavyweight wresting champion, and was undefeated during his final two seasons. Not surprisingly, his efforts as a grappler earned him an invitation to try out for the 1968 U.S. Olympic Team.

As a football player, Culp was an ominous, overpowering figure. The middle guard (linebacker) stood 6-1, weighed up 275 pounds, and had an 18½ inch neck with biceps to match. That muscle combined with 4.6 second speed in the 40 made the opponents quiver.

“Culp is the greatest collegiate lineman I’ve ever seen or been associated with,” once commented legendary Oklahoma coach Bud Wilkinson. 

Curley is one of five Hall of Famers to play at ASU. Mike Haynes, John Henry Johnson, Randall McDaniel and Charley Taylor are the others.
Another collegiate foe once stated,” Culp hit me and I didn’t know if I’d ever get up again.”

After two solid years at Arizona State, Culp flourished as a senior and was named to the Associated Press, Time and Sporting News All-America teams. Spots on the Coaches’ All-American Game and the  Chicago All-Star Game capped off his talented college career.

Culp was soon drafted by the Denver Broncos in the second round of the 1968 draft. After serious thought, he decided to forgo a wrestling career and stick with football. The Broncos however, had plans to play Culp at offensive guard.

“I told them at the time it wasn’t my feel,” Culp later said. “I didn’t play it in college and didn’t feel comfortable with it.” Unable to work things out, the Broncos traded Culp to Kansas City. The Chiefs inserted him at defensive tackle and his career skyrocketed. In his second pro season, he helped the Chiefs win Super Bowl IV. Then after a mid-career trade to the Houston Oilers, he would revolutionize the nose tackle position in the NFL.

Curley’s HOF Bio>>>

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