The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2014 gets inducted on Saturday. Shutdown Corner will profile the seven new Hall of Famers this week, looking at each of their careers and their impact on the game.
Humphrey missed the entire 1975 season with a knee injury. Back then, players were no sure thing to return from major knee injuries, and Humphrey's injury was feared to be career-ending. But Humphrey did return, and had his best season in 1976. He posted 15 sacks, a career high. He was named the team's MVP that season. Without that comeback and the six productive seasons that followed it, Humphrey likely would never have made the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Impact on the game
Think of how much prestige and importance pass rushers have in today's game. Back in Humphrey's day, the NFL didn't even officially keep track of sacks. We know that unofficially Humphrey posted 122 sacks in his career, and he was one of the players who changed the defensive end position. Deacon Jones got more attention for getting to the quarterback, but Humphrey did it really well too. He helped revolutionize the game as a big, athletic end who was great at disrupting other teams' passing offenses.
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Case against his bust in Canton
Well, you'd probably have to ask the voters who kept Humphrey out his first 27 years of eligibility. Humphrey didn't do anything in his 28th year of eligibility to bolster his career stats, but he got the call anyway.
Humphrey played on a lot of bad Falcons teams, which is one reason he retired during the 1978 season, only to come back in 1979 and play three more seasons for the Eagles. It wasn't his fault the Falcons lost so much when he was there, of course, but it kept his profile lower than some of his contemporaries who got into the Hall without waiting almost three decades.
Case for his bust in Canton
Humphrey was on the All-Pro or All-NFL first or second team eight times, including two first-team All-Pro nods. So for a long time, he was one of the best that played his position. He was the third overall pick of the 1968 draft and dominated from Day 1, collecting 11.5 sacks and winning defensive rookie of the year. And he was good to the end, posting 14.5 sacks in 1980 for an Eagles team that won an NFC championship.
Humphrey was great, with the aforementioned 122 sacks, despite playing most of his career on a Falcons team that posted a losing season seven times in his 10 seasons there. He's the first player to spend a majority of his career with the Falcons to make the Hall of Fame. It took a while to get in, but Humphrey has a great argument for his inclusion in the Hall of Fame.
"It's a legacy for my only grandson. He gets a chance to learn a little something about his granddad. It's something I don't have to tell him. Other people can tell him. He won't think I'm telling him a lie." - Humphrey, to the Associated Press
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