‘TSU Pride’ was front and center Saturday in Canton, Ohio, when Tiger great Claude Humphrey was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in front of thousands of spectators including family members, friends and Tennessee State University fans lead by President Glenda Glover.
“This is the proudest day in my life,” Dr. Glover said of the induction of her fellow Memphis, Tennessee, hometown native. “This very well deserved tribute to Claude Humphrey is beyond measure. I am just too proud to see this former Tiger and a product of Memphis, where I am from to be enshrined into the Hall of Fame.”
“I have so many mixed emotions right now,” Humphrey said, as he received and unveiled his bust that will be displayed in the Hall of Fame Museum alongside many other football greats before him. “I didn’t expect to get here, but I am sure glad that I did.”
Humphrey’s induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame is the second for a former Tiger, and it comes just three years after fellow defensive lineman Richard Dent was enshrined in 2011.
While many said Humphrey’s induction was long overdue, coming 33 years after he left the game, others saw it as a special moment for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, with the enshrinement of three HBCU graduates on the same day. Michael Strahan, a graduate of Texas Southern University, as well as Aeneas Williams, from Southern University, were also inducted alongside Humphrey.
“I am so happy for Claude, and it really speaks to the type of program we had at Tennessee State, having two players in the Hall of Fame,” said Dent, of his fellow Tiger. “It was a long-time coming, but well-deserved.”
Humphrey, Strahan and Williams were three of seven to be inducted on Saturday, joining Derrick Brooks, Ray Guy, Walter Jones and Andre Reed.
In his 30-minute speech, Humphrey paid tribute to his alma matter, making special references to President Glover for being present at the enshrinement, and his former coach, the late John Merritt, whom he described as “the greatest coach in black college football.”
“A lot of recruiters came to visit me, but none like John Merritt,” Humphrey said of his former coach and collegiate playing career. “To me, he was the greatest. We lost a total of five games in four years.”
Humphrey, the former Atlanta Falcon, who retired with the Philadelphia Eagles, was a three-time All-American defensive tackle at TSU from 1964 to 1967. He ended his collegiate career as the all-time leader in sacks at TSU with 39. He is tied for second behind Lamar Carter along with fellow TSU legend Richard Dent.
Humphrey was selected in the first round of the 1968 NFL Draft going third overall to the Atlanta Falcons. During his rookie season in Atlanta, he was named AP Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Humphrey played 13 seasons in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons (1968-74, 76-77) and the Philadelphia Eagles (1979-81).
While with Atlanta, he was named All-NFL or All-Pro eight times and was selected to the Pro Bowl on six different occasions.
Humphrey is only the second Falcon to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Ben Ray Harrell, ’70, a brother of Humphrey’s late wife Sandra, called the newly inductee “just an all over great guy.”
“This day is so fitting and could not have happened to a better person than Claude Humphrey,” said Harrell. “If there is anything that is missing here today is his wife not being here by his side. They loved each other very much.”
Nashville Councilman Howard Gentry ’74, ‘04, who presented a proclamation to Humphrey on behalf of the City Council, described the enshrinement as a fulfillment of former TSU President Walter Davis’ (1943-1968) dream for TSU to not just be recognized as a great sports program among “black schools,” but a great program compared to any in the nation.
“Claude’s induction and that of Richard Dent three years ago are an embodiment of that dream, and I couldn’t be prouder of their achievement” Gentry said.
Tony Wells ’92, president of the Tennessee State University National Alumni Association, like President Glover, said the enshrinement of Humphrey was a very proud moment for the whole TSU family.
“His mention of TSU, President Glover, and his days at the institution (during his speech) before the whole world was an indication of his pride and his appreciation for the preparation he received at the school,” said Wells. “I couldn’t be prouder as I am today.”
Also toting the ‘TSU Pride’ was the university’s 290-member marching show band, the Aristocrat of Bands, which put up a crowd-pleasing performance to thunderous, continuous cheers during the Pro Football Hall of Fame Parade in downtown Canton Friday. The band also put up another non-stop cheering, eight-minute performance during the half-time show of the nationally televised Hall of Fame game between the New York Giants and the Buffalo Bills at Fawcett Stadium.