Chiefs’ Culp elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame

The Chiefs added to their collection of Hall of Famers on Saturday night.

Defensive tackle Curley Culp, a cornerstone of the Chiefs defense in their upset of heavily favored Minnesota in Super Bowl IV, was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Culp was voted into the Class of 2013 with former Baltimore offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden; Dallas guard Larry Allen, Minnesota wide receiver Cris Carter, Tampa Bay defensive tackle Warren Sapp, coach Bill Parcells and Green Bay linebacker Dave Robinson, like Culp a nominee by the Seniors Committee. They will be inducted on Aug. 3 in Canton, Ohio.

Former Chiefs guard Will Shields, one of 15 modern-era finalists for the second straight year, was eliminated in the reduction to 10 candidates, largely because of the presence of Ogden and Allen on the ballot for the first time.

Culp is the ninth member of the Chiefs team that won Super Bowl IV — and fifth member of the defense — joining fellow tackle Buck Buchanan, linebackers Bobby Bell and Willie Lanier, cornerback Emmitt Thomas, quarterback Len Dawson, kicker Jan Stenerud, coach Hank Stram and owner Lamar Hunt.

Culp, who spent 1968 to 1974 with the Chiefs, also played with Houston during 1974-80 and became pro football’s prototype 3-4 nose tackle for one of the game’s dominant defenses of the mid-to-late 1970s.

“To become a Hall of Famer, that’s really special,” said Culp, 66. “It’s the top. I think my body of work and my contributions to the game were significant enough to be included among the greatest players. It’s a humbling and satisfying experience to be part of that.

“Being part of that Super Bowl team was magnificent. A couple of guys had been down that journey. When they played Green Bay in the first Super Bowl, guys like Len Dawson, Buck Buchanan, Otis Taylor, and the rest of the team had already been there. They knew what was involved to compete and to compete well. They brought me along gracefully.”

Shields, one of two 12-time Pro Bowlers in NFL history, was understandably disappointed.

“This is my second year, this is their first year,” he said of Allen and Ogden. “We’ll have to do what we have to do and see what our time holds.”

Culp, a former NCAA wrestling champion at Arizona State, entered the NFL in 1968 as a second-round draft pick by the Denver Broncos, who unsuccessfully tried to convert him to the offense line. Stram seized the opportunity to trade for Culp, making good on a promise the coach made when he spoke at an Arizona State football banquet.

“He said, ‘Curley, if I ever get the opportunity to get you, I will,’ ” Culp recalled. “It just panned out that way. He lived up to his word. It was a great situation for me. He gave me an opportunity to compete for the tackle job.”

Culp won the job alongside Buchanan, and the Chiefs created the Triple Stack defense, a four-man front with Culp lined on the nose in front of Lanier and Bell. In the 1969 AFL Championship Game in Oakland — the last AFL title game before the NFL-AFL merger — Culp made four solo tackles, assisted on two tackles and had a sack as the Chiefs beat Oakland 17-7 and advanced to Super Bowl IV.

With Culp, a massive 6-2, 265-pounder, dominating Minnesota’s undersized Mick Tingelhoff, the Vikings were unable to move the ball in the Super Bowl as the Chiefs won easily 23-7 at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans.

Culp handled Tingelhoff as if he were winning a college wrestling match.

“The wrestling helped in football because of the hand-to-hand combat and the quickness,” Culp said. “ Mick was a little smaller weight, and I was a little larger weight, and that helped, and my strength was a factor. To go in there and win as an underdog was special.”

Sacks were not an official statistic during Culp’s career in Kansas City from 1968-74, but unofficially, he had 8.5 sacks in 1969 and 7.5 in 1972.

“He was a building block of the middle of our defense, along with Bobby Bell and Lanier,” said Thomas, now the Chiefs’ secondary coach. “He was very intelligent, strong, quick and he was ornery as hell. He competed to the max.”

Culp attributed much of his success with the Chiefs to Buchanan.

“Buck was a great person and a great player, and he played an instrumental role in my life,” said Culp, who was inducted in the Chiefs Hall of Fame in 2008. “He showed me about life and the game. He showed me how to be a professional. I really owe him a lot. Bobby (Bell) played on my left side, and he was very helpful in my preparation as well as on game day.”

When Culp signed a future contract with the Southern California Sun of the World Football League, the Chiefs traded him to Houston during the 1974 season with a 1975 first-round pick for defensive lineman John Matuszak in what turned out to be one of the most lopsided trades in NFL history.

“We were one of the top defenses in the league when he had him,” Thomas said. “When we lost him, even though we had Bell and Buck and all those guys, our defense went backward.”

Almost instantly, Culp helped transform the downtrodden Oilers into championship contenders. The Oilers, who went 1-13 in 1973, finished 10-4 in Culp’s first full season of Houston in 1975 when he had 11.5 sacks. Culp, a six-time Pro Bowler, helped the Oilers to consecutive AFC Championship Games in 1978 and 1979 before finishing his 14-year career with Detroit in 1981.

But he never lost his affinity for Kansas City.

“There’s no fans like Kansas City fans,” said Culp, who lives in Austin, Texas. “They were right on top of us at old Municipal Stadium. They were so passionate. We had such good fan involvement. During those years we were winning some games, and the fans were very energetic and it was a fun time.

“In Kansas City, we had built a tradition, and we had a lot of great players on both sides of the ball. In Houston, winning was kind of a new thing because they’d lost for so long.”

Shields was eliminated in the cutdown from 15 candidates to 10 along with wide receiver Tim Brown, outside linebacker Kevin Greene, and owners Ed DeBartolo Jr. and Art Modell. The remaining five finalists who did not make it to the final five were linebacker Charles Haley, wide receiver Andre Reed, defensive end Michael Strahan, cornerback Aeneas Williams and running back Jerome Bettis.