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Culp: 'Yuma is the starting point'
Yuma, Ariz., may not be the city first associated with football greatness.
But the city can now boast about a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The NFL announced Saturday that Yuma High graduate Curley Culp will be among the inductees in the 2013 class.
“Yuma is the starting point,” Culp said in a phone interview Monday from his New Orleans hotel a day after attending Super Bowl XLVII. “That's my roots. That's always a very important foundation for everything to follow.”
Culp was on the Super Bowl IV Champion Kansas City Chiefs and also played with the Houston Oilers and Detroit Lions in his career. He was one of, if not the first, nose tackles in the NFL. While at Yuma High, he played on both the offensive and defensive lines. He was also a state champion wrestler and wrestled while playing football at Arizona State.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame was one of the last places to enshrine Culp, who is a member of at least seven other halls — including Yuma High, ASU and the National High School Sports Hall of Fame.
“It's an honor or blessing regardless of when it happens, late or early,” Culp said. “You're still considered one of the best to play the game, and being recognized for that is tremendous.”
As for what his enshrinement does for Yuma as a football community, Culp just laughs.
“You're asking me that question? You should be asking someone else,” he joked. “Personally, I think it's a good thing I had the opportunity to start out in Yuma, go on to Arizona State, get a degree and play football, do pretty good at it professionally, and now this is the end of journey so to speak, and it's a real athletic milestone for me. I'm very appreciative.”
The official ceremony takes place Aug. 3 in Canton, Ohio. It's the culmination of almost a yearlong process that started with the announcement of his candidacy in September.
“From what I've been told, it's going to be very exciting, it's going to be something that I will always cherish and remember for years to come, so I'm looking forward to it. Forward to the journey,” Culp said.
Culp was still in New Orleans on Monday for some league-related activities. That included being at the game Sunday, a 34-31 win for the Baltimore Ravens over the San Francisco 49ers that featured a 34-minute delay due to a blackout shortly after halftime.
“The blackout wasn't terribly convenient,” Culp said. “I guess it gave the players an opportunity to take a second breath and stretch their muscle and get ready for the remainder of the game.”
The 49ers were trailing 28-6 and many pundits attributed the comeback to the Ravens' losing momentum after the blackout — they had just scored on what tied the record for the longest kick return in Super Bowl history. But Culp said he doubted that the blackout had anything to do with the near-comeback.
“They are all professionals and it is a game until the finish,” Culp said. “The 49ers got behind before in games and were able to come back. And they almost won, but they just ran out of time or just didn't execute the right plays to win the game.”
Culp was among seven in the Hall of Fame class, along with coach Bill Parcells, receiver Cris Carter, defensive lineman Warren Sapp, offensive linemen Jonathan Ogden and Larry Allen, and linebacker Dave Robinson — a fellow selection of the senior committee.
The class is heavier on linemen, but Culp said his company in the class doesn't matter to him in the least.
“I'm just happy to be included in the group — it doesn't matter if it's all kickers, all defensive lineman beside me or whatever. It's a great feeling to be one of the next group going in. Dave Robinson is a great individual athlete and did well in Green Bay and with the Redskins.
“And what can I say about Warren Sapp? I think the record is there for him, and then there's Larry Allen, and the other gentleman from the Ravens (Ogden) — I think he's the (Ravens') first inductee. So, yeah, it's a good group. And then there's the coach. Bill Parcells. How can I say anything negative about him? He was the man, huh?”