Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee to be honored at 2014 Scholarship Gala
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – One of the most celebrated Tigers to ever step on the playing field at Tennessee State University will serve as Grand Marshal for his alma mater’s 2014 Homecoming parade.
Claude Humphrey, legendary TSU Tiger and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, will serve as the official grand marshal during the Homecoming Parade, Saturday, Sept. 27, and honored during the Homecoming game later that evening at LP Field.
Humphrey, who was recently inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame more than 30 years after retiring from football, will also be honored at the 2014 Scholarship Gala Friday, Sept. 26, an event designed to raise scholarship dollars for students in need.
“This is truly a great honor and I am looking forward to returning to the place where my football career started and my life changed,” said Humphrey. “It is a special time in my life to come ‘home’ to Tennessee State University so soon after my induction into the Hall of Fame. Everybody from the current president, Glenda Glover, to the staff have treated me as if I am a student again and that can’t be overlooked.”
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.
His college career also included a 35-3-1 record, two Black Colleges National Championships and an All-American selection in 1967. It all helped make Humphrey one of the earliest small-school prospects to be a top overall selection in the NFL draft.
But Humphrey will quickly say his love for football started purely by accident.
During his acceptance speech recently at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement, he described seeing some kids playing football, running around and tackling each other at the local high school in Memphis, Tennessee, while on an errand to get baking powder and cornmeal from the store for his mom.
When the coach asked him if he wanted to play, he said he had to finish the errand first, and took the stuff home. From there, he went back out and played, which is where his passion for the game presumably began.
He spoke about his time at Tennessee State, and the recruiting pitch from TSU coach John Merritt. The coach visited Humphrey’s house and spoke to his parents, telling them that he’d make sure Humphrey made it to church every Sunday no matter what.
“John Merritt to me was the greatest coach in historic black college football,” Humphrey said. “We lost a total of five games in four years. We lost two my freshman year, and then during my 1965 and 1966 seasons, we won the Black College National Championship.”
But the biggest thing that stuck out in his mind, Humphrey said, was Coach Merritt’s pitch. Coach Merritt actually came to his house and spoke to his parents about how he was going to take care of him at TSU. He would make sure he received his education, would buy his clothes, and feed him in the way he was accustomed to eating. That, he said, sealed the deal.
“Historically black colleges and universities take care of their students and everybody looks out for you,” added Humphrey. “It was an easy choice coming to TSU. It was like moving from one house to another…it was family.”
During his time at TSU, Humphrey’s tenacity on the field made him a first-round selectee during 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.
He played 13 seasons in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons (1968-74, 76-77) and the Philadelphia Eagles (1979-81). While with Atlanta, Humphrey 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 and TSU Tiger to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
But none of this would have been possible without the opportunities and nurturing he received at TSU, added Humphrey. From playing at the iconic William J. Hale Stadium, known as the “Hole,” to professors and coaches that took a personal interest in not only the football player, but also shaping the man he would become, it started at Tennessee State.
“I came from very humble beginnings and have been blessed for everything I have accomplished,” Humphrey said. “Life has given me opportunities, including the opportunity to attend TSU. Had I not come her, there is no telling where I would be today.”
Humphrey joins a list of impressive former grand marshals including TSU Tigers Ed “Too Tall” Jones and Richard Dent, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011. Other past grand marshals include Drs. Bobby Jones and Levi Watkins, Coach Ed Temple, Air Force general, Lloyd “Fig” Newton,” and current president Glenda Glover.
The parade kicks off at 9 a.m. and will again follow its original route through the historic Jefferson Street corridor to the TSU campus. The mile-and-a-half route begins at 14th Avenue and Jefferson Street traveling to the campus through the campus and concludes to 33rd Avenue and Albion Street.
For more information, contact the Office of Alumni Relations and Annual Giving at 615.963.5831.
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About Tennessee State University
With nearly 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 42 undergraduate, 24 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.