Alumni Alley runs each Monday throughout the offseason on PhiladelphiaEagles.com and features a former Eagle who writes about his time in Philadelphia and his perspective after his NFL career ended. This week: former defensive end Claude Humphrey, who played in Philadelphia from 1979-81. Humphrey was announced as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame on February 1 and will be enshrined into the Hall on Saturday, August 2 in Canton, Ohio ...
Since that magical night when I learned of my election into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, my life has been amazing. I was spinning during my time in New York, and now that I’m home and I’ve slept in my own bed, I realize it wasn’t a dream. I didn’t sleep much in New York, and everything was going so fast but once I had that good night’s sleep, I woke up and it was reality: I’m in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
I guess I didn’t realize how big of a deal was until I was elected. I had been eligible four or five times before and wasn’t voted in, but now that it’s happened, it’s a great feeling.
Playing in Philadelphia from 1979-81 was a fitting way to end my NFL career, and I’m eternally thankful to the Eagles and to the fans of Philadelphia for making my time there so special. I’m reminded of that a lot when I hear from my former teammates and coaches, and since my election I’ve heard from so many of them. I don’t want to name names for fear of leaving someone out, but having someone like Coach Dick Vermeil, a great friend of mine, reach out as he has done makes it so special for me. What a great, great man.
Playing in Philadelphia was special. I benefitted quite a bit from that experience. I had been in Atlanta for 11 seasons before that and I had become kind of stagnant. People seemed to take what I did for granted. I’m not talking about the fans. I’m talking about my teammates and the Atlanta Falcons. Anything I did was something I was supposed to do.
Then I came to Philadelphia and I had three sacks in a game and, shoot, the next day my picture was all over the sports section and I had to do interviews and there was so much attention paid to me and I said to myself, “Shoot, I should have been in Philadelphia all of this time. I would have really enjoyed it. These people are real sports fans.”
Eagles fans are talked about a lot by the national media and you can say what you want about the way they act sometimes, but I think they are great. They were real sports fans. They loved the Eagles. They understand what it was all about a lot more than the people in Atlanta at that time. Now, Atlanta has probably grown to that degree now, but back then it wasn’t the case. Back then the NFL was new for fans in Atlanta.
In Philadelphia, the Eagles were a way of life. And our team was the way a team should be. We were close. I can’t say that the Eagles were that much better than Atlanta on a talent level, but the relationship the players had with each other and with the coaches made it special. It made the difference.
Everyone played for Dick Vermeil. He put everything on the line for us and we put everything on the line for him. The fans were gracious and in love with the team. As a player, that’s what you want. You want the fans to care about the team, and in Philadelphia they certainly do.
Philadelphia was a special place for me and my family for three seasons. We loved the area and the fact that we were so close to other big cities and culture and my wife loved going to New York and shopping and seeing the Big Apple. What wonderful memories I have of being an Eagle.
My message to Eagles fans during this time of celebration is this: Thank you. I appreciate the Eagles fans. I think they really liked me and I think they liked my production on the field. I think the Eagles fans were outstanding and I remember, during our times warming up on the field before a game, the fans went crazy. I could feel the energy and the love.
Eagles fans, I appreciate everything you did for me and my family during my time in Philadelphia, for helping us transition so easily to our experiences on and off the field.