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ATLANTA – Pro Football Hall of Famer Claude Humphrey, one of the NFL’s most fearsome pass rushers of the 1970s with the Atlanta Falcons, has died at the age of 77.
Humphrey, who also played for the Philadelphia Eagles, died unexpectedly in Atlanta Friday night, according to the Hall of Fame, which was informed of his death by his daughter. No reason was given.
Humphrey was the No. 3 overall Falcons out of Tennessee State in 1968 and went on to play 11 years with the team, earning the last of six Pro Bowl appearances as a member of the famous “Grits Blitz” defense in 1977.
He joined the Eagles in 1979 and served as a designated pass-rusher on the 1980 team that reached the Super Bowl.
Humphrey retired after the 1981 season before sacks became an official statistic, but he was retroactively credited with 130 sacks over 13 seasons (he missed the entire 1975 season when he recovered from a knee injury).
“We are saddened by the passing of Claude Humphrey and send our prayers to his family and friends during this difficult time,” said Atlanta Falcons owner and chairman Arthur M. Blank 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 an eternal memory with introduction to our Ring of Honor and he will be very missed May I rest in peace. “
Humphrey was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014. He was inducted into the Falcons Ring of Honor in 2008 and the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 1988.
“The entire Pro Football Hall of Fame family mourns the passing of Claude Humphrey,” said Hall of Fame President Jim Porter. “Known as a hard worker and a reliable teammate, Humphrey was always willing to help the team where needed and knew that success was achieved jointly. His humble spirit guided him on and off the field.”
The Hall of Fame flag outside the museum in Canton, Ohio, will be flown at half-staff in Humphrey’s honor, Porter added.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report