Hall of Fame defensive end Claude Humphrey dies at 77

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Former NFL defensive end Claude Humphrey with his bust during the NFL Class of 2014 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony
Claude Humphrey played 13 seasons in the league for the Falcons and Eagles, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014. (Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Longtime Atlanta Falcons defensive end and Hall of Famer Claude Humphrey died on Friday night, the Hall of Fame announced on Saturday.

He was 77.

"The entire Pro Football Hall of Fame family mourns the passing of Claude Humphrey," Hall of Fame president Jim Porter said in a statement. "Known as a hard worker and a reliable teammate, Humphrey was always willing to help the team out wherever needed and knew success was achieved collectively. His humble spirit guided him on and off the field. Our thoughts and prayers are with Claude's family during this difficult time. The Hall of Fame will forever guard his legacy.”

Humphrey died unexpectedly in Atlanta on Friday night, though no cause of death was given.

Humphrey was selected by the Falcons with the No. 3 overall pick in 1968. The Tennessee native spent the next decade with the Falcons, and recorded 99.5 sacks and 11 fumble recoveries with the Falcons. He then spent his final three seasons in the league with the Philadelphia Eagles before retiring in 1981.

The six-time Pro Bowler helped lead the Eagles to Super Bowl XV during the 1980 season. He ended his career with 130 total sacks, and is No. 24 on the league’s unofficial sack list — as the stats weren’t recorded until after he retired.

"Before they started keeping records of sacks, man, I was getting sacks left and right," he said in 2014, via ESPN. "The thing about me, I didn't care so much about getting the sack. A sack was just a tackle back then. Tackling the quarterback or tackling the ball carrier on a running play was all the same."

Humphrey was elected as a senior candidate to the Hall of Fame in 2014. He was also inducted into the Falcons’ Ring of Honor in 2008, and the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 1988.

"We are saddened by the passing of Claude Humphrey and send our prayers out for his family and friends in this difficult time," Falcons owner Arthur Blank said in a statement. "Claude made an indelible impression on so many from Memphis to the Falcons and across the NFL with his leadership and tenacious approach on the field. His Falcons legacy was cemented as a forever memory with induction into our Ring of Honor and he will be greatly missed. May he rest in peace."