Arizona State grad Curley Culp will become the fifth Sun Devil enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday.
He was announced as a senior nominee last August, and in February was selected as one of seven inductees into this year's class. He may not have the same name-recognition as Warren Sapp or Bill Parcells, but he'll be no less proud when he's enshrined on Saturday night.
"Very excited, very pleased and very humbled that I'll be part of the next group coming in," Culp said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. "It's an exciting time, people calling, wanting to write a story. Friends and people you meet over the years calling and congratulating.
"It's been great," Culp added, "to enjoy the ride."
The Yuma native is the second Arizona-born player inducted in the last five years, joining fellow Sun Devil Randall McDaniel (Phoenix).
As far as The Road to Canton is concerned, Arizona State is winning this battle against rival Arizona by a wide margin. The Wildcats do not have a single ex-player enshrined in Canton.
John Henry Johnson, Charley Taylor and Mike Haynes are the other former ASU players enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
An amateur wrestler with a national reputation, Culp learned about speed and leverage during his time in Tempe. He was drafted by the Denver Broncos of Lou Saban, but was ultimately shipped to the Chiefs after a failed attempt to transition from the defensive line to offensive guard.
The problem was that Culp was just over 6 feet and weighed about 265 pounds, which even in those days was considered too small to play defensive tackle. But when he arrived in Kansas City, where there was a pressing need to plug the middle of the line, Hall of Fame coach Hank Stram decided to tailor the defense to his new addition and lined Culp up against opposing centers.
Culp wound up playing in six Pro Bowls over 14 seasons.
"I guess I proved them wrong," he said with a chuckle. "A little fireplug, that's me."
Culp was traded to the Oilers in 1974, where he helped shore up a defense that struggled mightily before his arrival. Several organizations voted him the defensive player of the year for his memorable 1975 season, and he wound up staying with Houston through the 1980 season.
He played one year for the Detroit Lions before retiring.
Culp will be enshrined along with Sapp and Parcells as part of a Hall of Fame class that also includes Larry Allen, Cris Carter, Jonathan Ogden and Dave Robinson.
"I had an opportunity to play 14 years, but the Super Bowl stands out," Culp said. "The opportunity to play with a veteran team — me and Jim Marsalis were the youngest on the team — it's gratifying to be there and get that leadership and that direction. Lot of history there."
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
David Kelly contributed to this story.
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