Curley Culp

Class of 2013

Pro Bowls




"I have learned that football is not just a sport but a life lesson in what it means to be a team player…I have learned how pain can build character and endurance and believe that life itself is like playing a very long and exciting football game where every play can determine the outcome."

Enshrinement Speech

Career Highlights

Curley Culp, an All-American in football and wrestling at Arizona State, was selected in the second round of the 1968 draft by the Denver Broncos. The team attempted to switch him to guard on offense, and when the experiment did not work, Denver ultimately dealt him to the Kansas City Chiefs, where he instantly became an integral part of the club’s dominating defense.

In his second pro season, he helped the Chiefs win Super Bowl IV. He started at left defensive tackle in the 1969 AFL Championship Game and contributed four tackles, two assists and a sack as the Chiefs downed the Oakland Raiders 17-7. He then added three tackles and one assisted tackle in Kansas City’s 23-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in the Super Bowl.
After six-plus seasons in Kansas City, Culp was traded in 1974 to the Houston Oilers as part of a blockbuster deal. It was with Houston that he began to gain perennial acclaim for his consistently high level of play. Almost instantly Culp helped transform the Oilers from losers to contenders. In his first full season with the Oilers, the team finished with a 10-4 record, which was the first winning mark for the club in eight years and only the second in 13 seasons.

He was the anchor of the Oilers, who had the top-ranked defense against the run in the AFC and third in the entire NFL in 1975. Culp recorded arguably his finest season as he amassed 11.5 sacks and was named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year by the Newspaper Enterprise Association.

Culp continued as a leader of the Oilers' defense that culminated in back-to-back appearances in the AFC Championship Games in 1978 and 1979. He was named to one AFL All-Star Game and five Pro Bowls during his career. Culp also was picked as a first-team All-Pro in 1975 and a second-team selection in 1971, 1977, 1978 and 1979. He was selected first- or second-team All-AFC five times. 
He played in 179 career games that included a final stint with the Detroit Lions.


Pro Football Hall of Famer Dick Butkus passed away early Thursday at his home in California at the age of 80.Humble Rock in the Middle, Curley Culp: 1946-2021


Pro Football Hall of Famer Curley Culp passed away on Nov. 27, 2021. He was 75. 

"He was a wonderful man of great integrity who respected the game of football and how it applied to everyday life,” said Jim Porter, President of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “Curley’s humility and grace were always apparent. He loved the Hall of Fame – always proudly wearing his Gold Jacket as he visited Canton many times following his election in 2013."

Read the full tribute article honoring Culp here.

Year Team G
1968 Kansas City 9
1969 Kansas City 14
1970 Kansas City 14
1971 Kansas City 14
1972 Kansas City 14
1973 Kansas City 13
1974 Kansas City/Houston 12
1975 Houston 14
1976 Houston 14
1977 Houston 14
1978 Houston 16
1979 Houston 16
1980 Houston/Detroit 13
1981 Detroit 2
Career Total: 179

Championship Games

1969 AFL – Kansas City Chiefs 17, Oakland Raiders 7
Culp started at left defensive tackle. He had four tackles two assists and one sack.

1978 AFC – Pittsburgh Steelers 34, Houston Oilers 5
Culp started at middle guard. He had five tackles two assists.

1979 AFC – Pittsburgh Steelers 27, Houston Oilers 13
Culp started at middle guard. He had two tackles.

Super Bowls

Super Bowl IV – Kansas City Chiefs 23, Minnesota Vikings 7
Culp started at left defensive tackle. He had three tackles and one assist.

All-Pro: 1975 (AP, PFWA, NEA, PW)

All-Pro Second Team: 1971 (PFWA) • 1977 (NEA) • 1978 (AP, NEA) • 1979 (AP)

All-AFC: 1975 (AP, UPI, SN, PW) • 1976 (SN, PW) • 1977 (PW)

All-AFC Second Team: 1976 (UPI) • 1978 (UPI) • 1979 (UPI)

(6) – 1970, 1972, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979

• 1975 Defensive Player of the Year (NEA)

Year Team W L T Division Finish
1968 Kansas City Chiefs 12 2 0 (2nd)
1969 Kansas City Chiefs 11 3 0 (2nd)
1970 Kansas City Chiefs 7 5 2 (2nd)
1971 Kansas City Chiefs 10 3 1 (1st)
1972 Kansas City Chiefs 8 6 0 (2nd)
1973 Kansas City Chiefs 7 5 2 (2nd)
1974 Kansas City Chiefs 5 9 0 (3rd)
1974 Houston Oilers 7 7 0 (2nd)
1975 Houston Oilers 10 4 0 (3rd)
1976 Houston Oilers 5 9 0 (4th)
1977 Houston Oilers 8 6 0 (2nd)
1978 Houston Oilers 10 6 0 (2nd)
1979 Houston Oilers 11 5 0 (2nd)
1980 Houston Oilers 11 5 0 (2nd)
1980 Detroit Lions 9 7 0 (2nd)
1981 Detroit Lions 8 8 0 (2nd)

Full Name: Curley Culp

Birthdate: March 10, 1946

Birthplace: Yuma, Arizona

Died: Nov. 27, 2021

High School: Yuma (AZ)

Elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame: Feb. 2, 2013

Enshrined into Pro Football Hall of Fame: Aug. 3, 2013

Other Members of Class of 2013: Larry Allen, Cris Carter, Jonathan Ogden, Bill Parcells, Dave Robinson, Warren Sapp

Pro Career: 14 seasons, 179 games

Drafted: 2nd round (31st player overall) in 1968 by Denver

Uniform Number: 61

Pro Football Hall of Fame Field at Fawcett Stadium
August 3, 2013

Curley Culp:
Good evening.  I tell you, this is quite something.  Thank you, Chad.  You know, Chad is the bonus baby.  Thank you so much.  My first child Christopher was called the boopity baby, and Chad was the bonus baby. I know they're cringing right now, but it’s OK. It's an inside family joke.
Greetings to the Hall of Fame, President Steve Perry and his lovely wife, Sandra. Members of the Hall of Fame Selection Committee, especially John McCain of the Houston Chronicle and Rick  Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News.  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and other invited guests and dignitaries.
You know, this is an occasion that's long been in my dreams and now lives in reality. I cannot express how glorious a feeling this is for me and my family, who have long hoped with me that this day would come. So to be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame gives me joy and inspiration that would last the rest of my life.
I must begin my remarks by acknowledging and thanking my lovely wife Collette, who has waited with me patiently all these years for this day to come.  She will always be the love of my life.  Thank you, Sweetheart, for all that you do.
Again, to my sons, Chad William and Christopher Ryan, you guys keep me on my toes and keep me feeling rather young. Yes, I love you both with all my heart. To my granddaughters, Anaya and Aleira, grandsons Xavier, Braeden and Brian: Always know that you are loved. A special acknowledgment goes to my twin sister, Shirley.  Since we were very young, we have shared our hopes and dreams, and as adults, we have remained closely connected, even though we have lived in different states over the years. I love you, Shirley.
To my sisters, Lucille, Frankie, and Suzy, and brothers Reilly, Amos, Bill, Frank, and Clarence, and their children: Thank you for all your support over the years. To Mickey, Evan, Malcolm Pickford: I appreciate you being here.
Thanks to my brother-in-law Albert and his wife, Jeannette, and their son, Cory, for being here. I wish I had time to name all of my family and friend who are here, but I don't. So to all my invited guests: Please stand and be recognized. All right. There you go. All right. All right. Thank you very much.
Although I'm joined tonight by so many friends and family members, two of the most important people in my life, my parents, Frank and Octavia Culp, are not here to celebrate with me. Both died over 20 years ago, but their influence and spirit still remains within me. My parents were homesteaders in the 1920s, coming to Arizona from Nashville, Tennessee, and Ozark, Alabama. They lived a farming life, raising a combined family of 11 children. Though my parents depended on me to help my dad's pig farm and earn extra money in the summer pitching watermelons in California with my older brothers and doing odd jobs whenever I could, they supported me whenever I had the opportunity to leave home and move to the big city of Tempe, Arizona, to attend and graduate from Arizona State University.
My parents were people of rigid faith and uncompromising discipline, but that helped me to become a successful student athlete. With their passing, I lost a lot of my family stories and some told and not remembered, and others yet untold.  But I will always remember, love and appreciate all that they did for me.  Thank you, mom and dad.
I can't go any further without acknowledging two important team owners, the late Lamar Hunt and Bud Adams.  These are the men that made my professional playing days happen. Lamar Hunt was so welcoming and kind to me, he even wrote me a handwritten letter that I keep to this day. And Bud Adams was instrumental in getting me to Houston with the Oilers, and to him I am eternally grateful. Good owners make great players, and this is what these owners did for me. Thank you.
Now what can I say about two of the greatest coaches a player could ever work with? Hank Stram gave me that opportunity to join the Kansas City Chiefs, which changed the whole course of my professional football career.  A few people know that Hank Stram visited the Arizona State University athletic banquet, and he had an opportunity to visit. He said, Curley, if I ever get an opportunity to add you to my team, he would.  So he was a man of his word.
Hank was not tall in stature, but he had a long vision about the game and how it should be played. He believed we play as a team, we lose as a team and we win as a team. Discipline in training, effort by all and believe in ourselves, that was the driving force of his coaching philosophy. To Phyllis, his wife, he was a good man. And Kansas City will always remember his one of a kind style. 

What other coach had an opera written about them? Well, that's the one and only, Bum Phillips. Bum was a player’s coach, and with loose trading me to come join the Houston Oilers, a whole new dimension of defensive football began for me. Playing nose tackle and the 3-4 defense was a hallmark of Bum's defensive strategy. He was always loose and let us develop as a team. A huge shoutout to Bum and the Oilers, the guy that set in motion an Astrodome era that was like no other Astrodome era, and made my time with the Oilers and unforgettable one.
I have learned so much in my life at Yuma High School, Arizona State University, University of Houston and University of Texas. I've learned that education helps you to believe and understand the basic work of every human being, no matter what his or her viewpoint may be. I have learned that football is not just a sport but a life lesson in what it means to be a team player. I've learned that there are many good people in the world that love to play this sport and recognize the value of sports as an avenue for building character.
I've also learned from and admired the courage and wisdom of those who have coached me over the years. I have learned how pain can build character and endurance and believe that life itself is like playing a very long and exciting football game where every play can determine the outcome.
So in life, as in sports, we should play hard and clean, and always do our best to succeed. So being elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame has helped me to remember and appreciate the guidance, mentoring and a deep faith in God, to insure that my path was one that would make all the people close to me proud.
My parents gave me that faith and it has taken me a long way and continues to do so even today. You know, my life has been tremendously enriched by playing in this game and in the incredible league whose members are passionate about this sport. The Hall of Fame Museum is an incredible place dedicated to documenting stories of extraordinary men, men who just wanted to play the game and found their niche in life doing so.
I am just overwhelmed by the struggles, joys and tears of those who have made it here, and I am proud to join this elite group of men and pleased to pass the torch on to future Hall of Famers. Hopefully our stories preserved forever in the Hall of Fame will remind us and demonstrate to others what hard work and team work can produce.
I just want to thank everyone whom I've worked with over the years. Each one has a very special place in my heart, and I'll always remember this time in my life with continued pleasure.
It is an honor for me to be placed among all of these great Hall of Famers, and an honor to wear the great red and white of the Kansas City Chiefs and the blue and white of the Houston Oilers. I am now honored and humbled to wear Hall of Fame gold.
To all future athletes: Keep training, keep connecting with the community and keep all of those in your prayers. And again, thank you so much for this honor. Good evening. 

Presenter Video: Chad Culp presents his father, Curley